Review by Roy Boyd
Although presented as the second book in this Cinebook series, this is actually the 25th adventure of the white-hatted cowboy by artist Maurice de Beverè, aka Morris, and writer René (Asterix) Goscinny.
Lucky Luke and Jolly Jumper, his faithful white steed, are ambling along when they meet a couple of tarred and feathered men – Denver Miles and Colorado Bill – who’ve been run out of town for gambling, a charge which Miles strenuously denies while his diminutive friend undermines his protestations somewhat by offering to gamble on anything that moves. Luke, kind soul that he is, gives them a lift and they go in search of a town. When they find one, Gold Hill, it’s the ghost town of the title, and there they meet the town’s sole occupant, Powell, who chases them off with directions to a nearby town. Once there, they hear Powell’s sad tale. As a young man he’d been duped by a conman who’d ‘salted’ the land (by shooting gold into the rock). This led to a full-scale gold rush, which died out soon after as there never had been any gold. Everyone left except Powell, who refuses to believe that he’s been duped, and continues to work the mine.
Luke gives his new pals some money for clothes, though he’s well aware of what a couple of crooks they are and vows to keep an eye on them. Sure enough, it’s not long before they’re at it with all sorts of plans for getting rich quickly, and dishonestly. Much of the book follows their attempts to get their hands on Powell’s mine. First they offer to buy it (hoping to con some other fool by ‘salting’ it themselves), then start a round of rumours about Powell. One by one, Lucky Luke confounds their plans and, as ever, it falls to him to save the day, not just for the poor, beleaguered mine-owner, but the entire town of Gold Hill.
It’s hard not to love Lucky Luke, he’s amiable, spends his life trying to help others and avoids violence whenever he can, even though he’s a sharpshooter of remarkable skill. Brilliant examples of Luke’s skill with a gun – like when he shoots in a protruding nail just before a duel as he doesn’t like things untidy when he’s fighting – are sprinkled throughout the book.
This is a fun story that moves at a fair clip, complemented by a plot that contains historically accurate details and facts that will entertain even grown-up readers. Much of the plotting is very smart, especially the ingenious solution Luke comes up with to save the town. The artwork, as is always the case, is a treat. It’s almost a textbook example of how to draw strip cartoons, with clear layouts and great storytelling the main concern. When one considers the format, and its limitations on page layouts, many of the panels are even more impressive. Not one of the best of the series, but an enjoyable read nonetheless. A widescreen comedy-western that’s both fun and educational: who could ask for anything more?