Review by Karl Verhoven
Ghost Hunt dates from 1992, the middle of a long period when Lucky Luke’s creator Morris was alternating albums by the writing team of Jean Léturgie and Xavier Fauche with those of other collaborators. Lo Hartog Van Banda contributed three scripts, starting in 1982, and this was his final effort.
Calamity Jane features, and she’s true to life as an uncouth sure shot, rather than the sanitised Doris Day version, with a lot of the humour derived from her complete inability to even imitate refinement. “A terrible woman who drank whisky the way others drink water!”, is a description of her, continuing “Everyone feared her, even the Indians, who thought she was a devil”. When she learns that robberies are being committed in her name, she’s outraged and investigates, with Lucky Luke tagging along for company and restraint. The other complication is that she’s supposedly dead.
By 1992 Morris had been drawing Lucky Luke for well over forty years, and his cartooning is almost effortless. He always creates great characters, and his scowling version of Jane is an ugly, brutal woman that could be related to Desperate Dan such is her chin. She has an appropriate air of cartoon menace, and a good aspect of the script is how Luke has his methods of calming her down. The sample page has a great example of the back cover tagline of Luke shooting faster than his own shadow.
The other albums written by Van Banda come highly recommended on this site, but while Ghost Hunt provides a fair proportion of laughs, they’re to a transparent formula. He is distinctly better at capturing the atmosphere than some writers used in the 1980s, but it’s as if Van Banda is channelling the ghost of René Goscinny, but he can’t quite lock in completely to the frequency of the afterlife. The gags are good, but the set-ups are more obvious. There are now so many Lucky Luke albums to choose from that this ranks as a middling production.