Billy the Kid is presented as the first book of Lucky Luke’s series in these Cinebook editions, although it’s actually the 20th adventure of the laconic cowboy who shoots faster than his own shadow.

Lucky Luke ambles into Fort Weakling, Texas, a frontier town familiar to anyone who has ever seen a Western. Unfortunately, the town is home to one William H. Bonney, better known as Billy the Kid. The townspeople all live in terror of the Kid, delivered as a genuine sulky teenager, whether he’s stealing red caramels from the grocer or holding up the local bank or stagecoach, and they’re all far too afraid to testify against him in court. Bonney won’t have a go at Lucky Luke because our hero amuses him. So, rather than shooting the little git in the back (which would, admittedly, curtail our story somewhat) Luke hatches a cunning plan. Enlisting the help of a few townspeople, sets out to convince everyone, but especially Bonney, that Luke is a desperado whose crimes make the Kid’s pale in comparison.

Warfare of the strictly psychological variety is used to great effect as the townspeople first persuade Bonney that they were really fond of him and he was just like a naughty member of the family, whereas Luke is a real good-for-nothing dangerous rascal. They then ask Bonney to save them from Luke, putting him in the even more unusual position of being looked upon as anyone’s saviour. It’s all too much for the bad-tempered little psychopath, and he has a meltdown and… well, you’ll have to read the book to find out what happens next (though the front cover is a bit of a giveaway).

Not as complex as Asterix, or as accomplished as the Tintin books, this is nevertheless a thoroughly entertaining read, well written and with polished and energetic artwork, that’s likely to appeal to fans of both those better-known series. And writer René Goscinny ensures it’s educational to boot, featuring real personalities like the Dalton Gang and Jesse James, both of whom appear in this volume, one in a cameo and the other in a satisfying postscript to the tale.