The Bluecoats: The Draft Riots

The Bluecoats: The Draft Riots
The Bluecoats The Draft Riots review
  • UK publisher / ISBN: Cinebook - 978-1-80044-124-8
  • Volume No.: 45
  • Release date: 2002
  • English language release date: 2023
  • UPC: 9781800441248
  • Contains adult content?: no
  • Does this pass the Bechdel test?: no
  • Positive minority portrayal?: no

Most of The Bluecoats to date has translated volumes produced during the late 1970s and throughout the 1980s, by which time Raoul Cauvin and Will Lambil had fine tuned the comedy antics of the two contrasting Union soldiers during the American Civil War. Sallie, though jumped forward to 2018, and The Draft Riots originated in 2002.

As none of the 1990s stories have yet been translated it’s unknown if it’s an anomaly, or if by the 45th album Cauvin was taking more time to explore the war’s political aspects. Here it’s the deeply unpopular army draft, which led to riots in New York. By 1863 the Union forces had won two decisive battles against the Confederates, but the cost in lives was great, and the army urgently needed replenishing. A draft is never popular, but even greater resentment was stoked by the rich being able to avoid service by paying $300. There weren’t enough troops to protect the draft agents, and Cauvin’s story has Chesterfield and Blutch among them.

It’s almost beyond belief that the government couldn’t predict the result of enabling people to buy their way out of service, but the solutions rapidly phased in are practical suggestions. Our heroes rapidly learn that their uniforms make them a target, or at least Blutch does, and changing into civilian clothes finds them in the company of Irish American rioter Patrick Merry. What begins as resentment against the rich takes an unpleasant turn as the poor Irish Americans begin targetting African Americans, then wholesale looting.

Lambil’s name remains astonishingly absent from any English discussion of the great Franco-Belgian cartoonists. His characters are polished whether starring or in the background, while lively, detailed and well composed pages are equal to the best of the field vying for that third place in the rankings beneath Franquin and Hergé.

The Draft Riots mixes knockabout comedy and historical discussion, making for an awkward contrast. There are fewer outright laughs than in earlier books as Cauvin stretches the plot to conform to the real timescale of the riots via repetition, most frequently Chesterfield’s desire to return to uniform. Blutch’s laconic attitude is better conveyed. While not among the series highlights, this maintains a professional standard with wonderful art ranking it above average.