Review by Jamie McNeil
Thorgal, Aaricia, Jolan and Wolf Cub leave the beautiful island of Our Land in their continuing search for a peaceful refuge. It’s a lovely vision, but a unicorn that gallops away each time, as sailing along the coast of a wild country they are pursued by unusual but savage pirates. At their most desperate they are rescued by the young prince of the amazing Kingdom of Zhar, who generously invites them to stay at his court, though his motives are not entirely pure. Fear overrules his generosity when first Jolan then Aaricia fall to a mysterious illness and the entire family is banished to die in the desolate Labyrinth with others suffering as they are. Refusing to give up hope or let his family die, Thorgal determines to find help one way or another but this is a strange land with strange wildlife and strange people, and time is running out.
In The Blue Plague writer Jean Van Hamme uses Jolan as narrator for the first half of the story to give the perspective of a boy becoming a man and facing up to the realities of life. Among them the sad task of saying goodbye to old companions and the bittersweet emotions of lost first love. As events progress and Jolan falls ill, the tone changes, becoming more desperate as we witness Jolan’s world unravelling. Not only has he endured love’s heartache, but must also face the likelihood of death. It’s a nice touch injecting human drama and preogresses Jolan towards more of a starring role later in the series. The poignancy in Jolan’s dilemma turns to desperation in the second half as Thorgal races against time in a thriller dripping with tension.
Inspired by both Alexandré Dumas and Jules Verne, Van Hamme weaves in his own unique style to create some fascinating societies. In spending his time on developing what are captivating plot scenarios, he does overlook some minor plot details. These are minor points most every writer overlooks, but they build up and diminish what is an otherwise excellent plot, and the first time Van Hamme has put a foot wrong in six albums. Grzegorz Rosiński’s art is fantastic from start to finish with Graza’s colours rich and full. Rosiński renders in fantastic detail both the opulence of a princely palace and the lush wild waterways through a mangrove swamp. There’s a wide array of well illustrated landscapes, but battling unique apex predators in a jungle swamp and thrilling fight scenes generates oodles of excitement.
The advice is not to over think the little plot issues (if you notice them) because The Blue Plague is very good despite that and Rosiński’s artwork alone is five star. Thorgal confronts his strange heritage again in The Kingdom Beneath The Sand.