Review by Frank Plowright
Artist and then writer of Lucky Luke Morris (Maurice De Bevere) introduced the Dalton gang in Outlaws, his sixth adventure in 1954. He came up with a memorable visual representation for the four brothers. who looked identical, but their heights varied from very small to very tall, and he always drew them in ascending (or descending) order according to height.
There was a good response to the Daltons while the material was being serialised in Spirou, but Morris killed them at the end of the story. He later came to regret this, having re-considered their comic potential, and in this story’s predecessor Lucky Luke versus Joss Jamon, he included a cameo for the Dalton Cousins. They were visually identical to the previous Daltons, and in this 12th Lucky Luke volume they make a memorable return. From this point they’d be Luke’s first and most frequently recurring comedy villains.
The Dalton Cousins was Morris’ third collaboration with René Goscinny, and opens with the Daltons envying their more renowned cousins and vowing revenge on their killer, Lucky Luke. However, for all their malign intent, they’re both incompetent and stupid. Continuing the character traits from Outlaws, the shortest of the brothers, in this case Joe, is the leader. He also maintains the shortest fuse, largely due to being marginally smarter than his brothers, and continually frustrated at their stupidity. The tallest, here Averell, is also the dimmest of the bunch.
Luke easily and hilariously deals with the Daltons’ inept first attempts to take revenge. He does, however, realise that they’re both a danger to themselves and to wider society, so accepts their invitation to join the gang. Much of the book thereafter is his ingenious methods of foiling their dastardly plans without them realising he’s culpable.
Morris’ cartooning is, as always, a masterclass in comic storytelling, and the story provides a barrel of laughs from start to finish.