The Bull Run river is located in Viriginia, and in 1861 was the site of the first major battle between Union and Confederate troops in the US Civil War. In throwing Blutch and Chesterfield into the midst of it, Raoul Cauvin and Willy Lambil play fast and loose with history, while sticking to the truth of major events.

In their version the Unionists consider victory such a foregone conclusion that spectators are encouraged to come and watch the battle from the hillside, and Blutch is able to revert to his former trade of barman, narrating the events in hindsight. As the flashback is set early in the relationship of Blutch and Chesterfield there’s still great resentment on Blutch’s part at having been shanghaied into the army, and he warns Chesterfield to watch his back, as he’ll be using any means available to escape. In the event, there are great moments of reluctant heroism for Blutch.

As seen from the top panel of the sample art, Lambil is dedicated to packing his panels with life. This equally applies to scenes of cavalry forces heading into attack and retreating, each of those panels featuring dozens of men on horses. Infantry spotlights are similarly filled with detail, each soldier individually defined. It’s another gold standard performance from the most under-rated of European cartoonists.

The ludicrous presence of spectators provides some running jokes, and good use is made of the army only signing up volunteers for a three month period at the war’s start. Cauvin’s gag ratio is high, and true to the cast, while always elevated by Lambil’s natural ability to bring the best out of a joke visually. It all means Bull Run is another solid Bluecoats outing to be thoroughly recommended.

While some Bluecoats albums reference earlier stories, they can be read in any order, but even so it’s a big surprise to see Cinebook leap forward from 1997 to 2018 for the next album, Sallie.