In Review: Yoko Tsuno – The Forge Of Vulcan

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Roger Leloup’s Yoko Tsuno returns in the ninth of her books to be translated into English by Cinebook, The Forge Of Vulcan, which is a sequel to the very first Yoko story The Curious Trio.

In The Curious Trio Yoko and her two friends and colleagues Vic and Pol discovered the Vineans who were blue skinned aliens secretly living on Earth in underground caverns having had to leave their dying planet. In The Forge Of Vulcan the discovery of a new element at an offshore drilling platform in the Caribbean leads Yoko and her friends back to the underground chambers of the Vineans. The Vineans want to come to the surface and reveal themselves to humanity but one faction wants to do it peacefully while another wants to use underground magma chambers to cause devastation on the surface to wipe out humanity so that they can have the Earth to themselves. Yoko must help the peaceful faction to prevent a disaster.

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Chronologically this is the third Yoko Tsuno book compiled as an album in France in 1973 having been in issues 1819 to 1840 of the weekly Spirou comic the same year, so televisions with no remote controls and record players make appearances, but otherwise the science fiction nature of the main plot in the underground world of the technologically advanced Vineans means that other than this it really doesn’t feel dated. Artist and writer Roger Leloup aimed Yoko Tsuno at a slightly younger audience than a lot of Cinebook’s adventure series so, while the logical progression of the plot is never a problem, adult readers may find the practicality of miles upon miles of underground caverns secretly populated by thousands of humanoid aliens who can safely channel magma to be somewhat straining. However this never gets in the way of the story which, once underground, rattles along leaving the reader little time to dwell on these practicalities. Indeed this return of the Vineans so early in the original run of the French strip obviously proved so popular with readers that Leloup would return to them as a regular plot device in many more of the 26 albums and one text novel in the series.

Leloup was originally part of the Herge Studio working on the Tintin books, specifically the architecture and technology required for those stories, so the technology of the advanced Vineans such as tube craft, vast machines, and methods for channelling magma, pose no visual problem for him while character-wise the series has already settled into its familiar format of Yoko being logical if rather bossy at times, Vic being practical and Pol being the comic foil.

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In a marketplace with few titles that could be targeted directly at young girls, I know from my own experience that Yoko Tsuno goes down well with late primary school age girls due to its main protagonist but that the normally science fiction stories and the technology that the books contain means that they do not alienate young male readers either.

Yoko Tsuno may be a junior adventure series but nevertheless it is always entertaining and The Forge Of Vulcan continues Cinebook’s publication of the series’ earliest books with an excitingly breathless tale.

• There are more details of all the English language Yoko Tsuno books on the Cinebook website.

• There are more details of the original French books on the official Yoko Tsuno website (in French).

• The downthetubes review of The Curious Trio, the prequel to The Forge Of Vulcan, is here.

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Jeremy Briggs

News, reviews, interviews and features for print and on-line: Spaceship Away (since October 2005), Bear Alley (since February 2007), downthetubes (since June 2007), and Eagle Times (since October 2008). Plus Titan’s Dan Dare and Johnny Red reprints, Ilex’s War Comics: A Graphic History and 500 Essential Graphic Novels, and Print Media’s The Iron Moon and Strip magazine.

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