Review by Karl Verhoven
What with the Daltons being such incorrigible rogues, you may wonder what kind of family they were brought up in. Well, now we find out. “Everybody reach for the sky” bellows the old woman that Lucky Luke has just helped across the street as she pulls out a pistol and heads into the butcher’s shop.
It’s no surprise that the short-lived Glo’Worm imprint selected this as one of the few Lucky Luke books they translated into English in the 1990s, nor that it was one of the earliest selected for translation by the far longer-lived Cinebook line. It numbers among the best of Lucky Luke. By 1971 René Goscinny and Morris had hit a peak that roughly coincided with Goscinny’s best work on Asterix, and this dates from that prime period.
The local townsfolk are fond of Ma Dalton, and have a great indulgent attitude toward her. Morris’ construction of her is basically Joe (the small and irascible Dalton) minus the moustache, but in a bonnet and skirts. This a great visual to start with, and Goscinny picks up on that similarity to sow his usual confusion-based plot. Goscinny’s instinct is impeccable. Just at the point where it seems he’s over-stretching a joke he adds a new twist, and he piles one ridiculous situation atop another for a complete laugh fest.
Also well played throughout is a mother’s love for Averell, the tallest, youngest and dimmest of the Daltons, and perpetually hungry. Ma Dalton likes to look after her baby, unaware of the resentment this causes. “It was the same when we were kids”, recalls Jack regretfully, “He always got the best six-shooter for Christmas and twenty cartridges more than we got every week.”
For a change, the Daltons remain one step ahead of Lucky Luke for most of the book, but then he does have a hindrance in the form of inept bloodhound Rin Tin Can. Considering Ma Dalton was such a fount of comic situations here, it’s odd that Goscinny never used her again. She would later appear in Tying the Knot, by other creators.
The plotting, pacing and cartooning are exemplary and there surely can’t be many better Lucky Luke books.