Although the 38th Lucky Luke book published by Cinebook, this is the seventh volume chronologically, dating from before Luke’s golden era.

It turns out that the inspiration supplied by the introduction of the Daltons in Outlaws was temporary, and in this book, first serialised in 1952-1953, Morris returns to the slower paced set up and gag material of previous volumes. His art, though, continues to improve, and is not too far removed from the finished style that would see him through another fifty or so albums. His Luke is almost there, still a little skinny, still occasionally wide-eyed, but with his quiff now at its final length, and his yellow shirt, blue jeans and black waistcoat in place.

Doc Doxey is a purveyor of miraculous medical cures, liquid compounds he concocts beneath the cover of his wagon. He’s a peculiar contradiction, sometimes referring to his regularly conning people in terms of a genuine intent to cure, and on other occasions happily manipulating events or inducing sickness for profit. The contrariness gives the impression of seat of the pants plotting.

This can be looked on as one single story, a succession of gags stretched over several pages, or two tales parsed by the chapter break after Doxey is apprehended. It’s very episodic, and Morris milks often predictable gags for all they’re worth. In later years he’d be able to contract material occupying well over a page here into a few better constructed panels.

As noted, some gags are protracted and over-worked, but that doesn’t apply universally. In a particularly effective sequence Luke needs to borrow a horse, only to discover that it has a taste for alcohol matching that of its owner. Morris uses this to set up some decent material. Overall, though, there are many far better Lucky Luke books to buy before you land here.