Review by Woodrow Phoenix
Yoko Tsuno is an intrepid young Japanese woman, an aikido black belt, expert scuba diver and pilot of jets, gliders and helicopters. She’s an electrical engineer from Brussels who travels the world solving mysteries with her two Belgian friends Vic and Pol. Her adventures began appearing in the Franco-Belgian comics magazine Spirou in September 1970 with three short stories before the first album-length Yoko Tsuno adventure, The Curious Trio (Le trio de l’étrange) began eight months later.
Writer and artist Roger Leloup developed his detailed backgrounds and meticulous rendering of all types of vehicles and machinery working at Studios Hergé, where he was responsible for settings such as the Genève-Cointrin airport in The Calculus Affair and the supersonic Carreidas 160 jet that featured in Flight 714 to Sydney, among others. He also drew for other creators including Jacques Martin (Alix and Lefranc), and Peyo (Jacky and Célestin) before he began working on his own creations in 1969. 27 Yoko Tsuno albums have been published since 1972, all serialised in Spirou magazine and later collected by editions Dupuis. It has taken a long time for this hugely popular European series to be translated into English, and Cinebook has selected individual volumes from across the whole run, reprinting them out of sequence with the strongest books first. This may lead to some confusion for readers who haven’t seen these stories before, because Roger Leloup’s first three albums look very different from the later ones, with a much cartoonier style.
On the Edge of Life is the first Cinebook volume, but was originally the seventh album (La Frontière de la vie), published in 1977. Yoko receives a letter from an old friend Ingrid asking her to come to the historic German town of Rothenburg. But when she arrives, she finds it wasn’t Ingrid who sent the letter, and her friend is in deadly danger from a mysterious vampiric assailant. Yoko’s attempts to track down this black-clad figure don’t work out, but when her friends Vic and Pol arrive, the three of them discover a clue to this mystery that might prove fatal – for Yoko.
Leloup’s drawing is meticulous and the storytelling very clearly staged, but there’s something a little stiff about his characters. All the people in this book have a doll-like appearance which makes his action sequences fall a bit flat. The cars and machines all look great, and there are some dramatic chases and fight sequences, including a major cliffhanger which would be way more tense if Yoko and her foes weren’t all so wooden. Leloup’s science-fiction concepts are fascinating and there is a quirky originality to Yoko herself which is very appealing despite the bland prettiness of all the main characters. On the Edge of Life is a well-plotted adventure with a couple of strange twists, which will appeal to younger readers.
The next book in this series is The Time Spiral.