Tintin and Alph-Art (2007) a (belated) review

Very late last year, the Steven Spielberg directed The Adventures of Tintin movie came to theaters.  While the box office within the United States, where the character of Tintin isn’t as well known, was mild, the film was a hit in other parts of the world.

Tintin was created by Georges Prosper Remi, better known as Herge, in 1929.  Mr. Herge wrote and illustrated the adventures of Tintin from that time until his death in 1983.  In total, he made 23 Tintin “graphic novels”, starting with Tintin in the Land of the Soviets and ending with 1976’s Tintin and the PicarosTintin in the Congo, the second released full adventure of the character, remains, to my knowledge, the only one unavailable in English, and perhaps for good reason as it features stereotypes which may have been acceptable back in 1931 when the book was released but are today difficult to bear.

At the time of Herge’s death, he was working on another Tintin adventure, Tintin and Alph-Art.  He would never finish the work, but so beloved is the character of Tintin that what work he did on the feature was collected into a graphic novel album and released after Herge’s death.

It remained the only Tintin graphic novel I hadn’t read…until now.

To begin, I was wary of purchasing the book because of the fact that it appeared so rough.  One has only to look at the cover art to see what you’re in for in the book itself:

Compare that sketch with the covers below, taken from two completed works:

So, as I said before, I was a bit wary of trying the book out.  Eventually, I knew, I would give in, and I did.

And I’m not unhappy to do so.  There are only three pages, the first three pages, of the work that one could consider close (but not quite) “finished pencils”.  No page has been inked, and whatever colors there are are via marker.  As for the story, Herge managed to plot out 42 pages of story.  Herge’s Tintin graphic novels tended to run around 60+ pages, so we’re missing what amounts to the story’s climax and resolution.  However, despite the fact that 40 of the 42 pages presented are pretty rough, artistically, there were great efforts made to post what Herge wrote of dialogue and, thus, it is possible to follow the story presented, even if it is presented as rough as it is.

Perhaps the single worst element is the fact that the story is incomplete, and Herge leaves our hero in a cliffhanger situation, never to be resolved.

If you’re a fan of Tintin and were hesitant about buying this book, there are pluses and minuses to doing so.  On the one hand, its fascinating to see a work in progress.  Despite the rough nature of this work, there are things to enjoy here…you can see the genius of Herge come through.  On the minus side, it is awfully rough, and one gets the feeling that much of the later pages Herge was “winging it” and would have probably revised and rewritten and smoothed out things happening later on.  And the one big minus, of course, is that ultimately the story is incomplete.  There is simply no end.

Given these elements, I would cautiously recommend the book to fans of Tintiin.  If you’re a newcomer to the Tintin universe, I would suggest you look in on the completed works before diving into this one.