Review by Jamie McNeil
It is truly amazing how you can approach a Yakari story with low expectations each time, the cover art telling you, “This is for kids!” And every time Derib (Claude de Ribaupierre) and Job (André Jobin) mesmerise you with their charming tales of Yakari, the young boy with the giant heart who can speak to animals. While British readers tend to dismiss Westerns straight off, European artists still have great fondness for them and produce the best Western themed stories. That’s true for Yakari and during the early 1990s his creators followed up their good The Snow Bird with the even better The Wall of Fire.
This book opens with the aptly named Wild Mane stealing Horses from Yakari’s tribe, though Yakari’s friend, the mustang Little Thunder escapes. The tribe relies on their horses so a few men including Yakari’s father set off immediately to retrieve them, the tribe’s survival and honour at stake. Yakari disobeys his father’s command to stay at home and follows Little Thunder’s trail. The mustang in turn has been trailing the herd, though they discover that this tribe is not only bigger than theirs but their camp also secure. So with the help of a lynx and a flying squirrel Yakari has to discover the mystery of the black water in order to help his father save the tribe and retrieve their horses.
Even by previous standards The Wall of Fire is a wild and adventurous tale, Derib crafting some truly stupendous scenes of the tribesmen walking at dusk and firelight reflecting the size of Wild Mane’s village (sample). His cast is regal, each one with a defining characteristic like Wild Mane’s hair that flies around in the breeze. Derib’s art is stunning, a virtuoso performance enhanced by support from colourist Dominique. The details from the villages to galloping horses are sumptuous, the personalities of each character shining through in the lines of their faces.
Job scripts a fabulous adventure, the customs of the Sioux people well researched in a time before the internet and sensitively handled. An interesting fact is that Job was 65 when he wrote this. His creative partnership with Derib is so evident on the page, confident in knowing that his artistic partner knows exactly how to illustrate the story. The result is a wonderful, amazing, fabulous adventure just as they are meant to be. It has the right amounts of tension and danger driven by interesting characters and magnificent art. Yakari: The Wall of Fire earns every one of its five stars.
Yakari returns in The Devil of the Woods.