Review by Frank Plowright
A positive aspect of stories written by René Goscinny, both for Lucky Luke and elsewhere, is that he highlighted what he felt was wrongdoing or exploitation. There’s an example in the opening pages in which he notes the basic historical elements of Oklahoma, portions of which were first ceded to re-located Native Americans. Manipulation on a grand scale then, in effect, rescinded this settlement. This is mentioned in passing, but others wouldn’t have bothered, and the conclusion notes a rare happy ending for the Native American communities.
The great Oklahoma Land Run of 1889 gave new settlers the opportunity to stake out plots of land, and occupy them, but they were only permitted to do so from a given time on a given day. This scenario affords good comic potential with Lucky Luke hired by the government to ensure there’s no claim-jumping or other jiggery-pokery.
Naturally there are those with no intention of adhering to the rules, primarily the sneaky Coyote Will, the dim Dopey, and the strong, but not exactly smart Beastly Blubber. These are stock characters onto whom the plot is applied, as was often the case in Lucky Luke, but the resulting gags and twist are good enough, so the basic characterisation is irrelevant.
This isn’t the best Lucky Luke, but neither is it poor. Morris’ cartooning is deft, expressive and very funny, and the script, if a little meandering, packs in the gags as a new settlement is founded and Luke sticks around for the teething troubles. As the previous volumes were markedly better, it’s worth speculating if Goscinny’s mind was on other matters. Less than a year after The Oklahoma Land Rush was serialised in Spirou, he and others published the first issue of a competing magazine, Pilote. Much preparatory work was required, and Goscinny was simultaneously creating features for the new magazine, from which Asterix the Gaul would become his defining work.
It should also be mentioned that this the first Lucky Luke volume in which the pages are numbered in traditional fashion. Up until the previous volume, The Judge, Morris had been numbering the pages sequentially from the first he drew in 1946, finishing with 566. He’d end up drawing over 3000 pages of Lucky Luke.