Cinebook brings us the fourth in their translated adventures of US military pilot Colonel Buck Danny in Francis Bergese’s No-Fly Zone, originally published in France in 1998 as Zone Interdite, the 47th French Buck Danny album.
Buck Danny, with his friends and fellow pilots Sonny and Tumb, has been reassigned from his US Navy carrier to train Managuan Air Force pilots to fly their newly delivered F/A-18 Hornets. However the US government suspects the country to be the source of illegal drugs and requests that the pilots attempt to over fly a suspiciously anonymous airfield in the middle of the country and report back on what they see. However the three friends soon discover that the airfield is in the centre of a no-fly zone that their Managuan trainees refuse to violate. Hiring a civilian Beechcraft 35 Bonanza propeller plane they fly into the area as tourists, however anti-aircraft fire and a MiG-23 Flogger jet fighter soon prove to them that their presence is not welcome.
This is the third Buck Danny book that Francis Bergèse worked on and follows on from the Glasnost themed The Secrets Of The Black Sea and the Bosnian War of Ghost Squadron. Here he takes the series into the war against the drug cartels of the time with the three main characters rather awkwardly placed into the locale and eventual danger that entails. There is a sub-plot of drugs being smuggled onto the carrier itself via the ship’s C-2 Greyhound transport plane which bolsters the tale somewhat and, if anything, proves to be rather more interesting than the main plot at that point in the book. I suspect that it is there to extend the length of the story as this book is actually the first of a two-part story that will be concluded in the next Buck Danny book, Thunder over the Cordillera, which is due from Cinebook in January 2015.
This book reintroduces the mercenary pilot known as Lady X, a long-time Buck Danny adversary who first appeared in the 1957 book Menace Au Nord to give the series an ongoing villain and to move the strip away from the sort of contemporary events that the Commission for the Oversight and Control of Publications for Children and Adolescents (a sort of French equivalent of America’s Comics Code Authority) disapproved of in children’s comics back then. In the previous Cinebook title Ghost Squadron she was in Bosnia and now in No-Fly Zone she is in the fictional Managua so, as far as the plots are concerned, she is always in the right place and the right time and as such she comes across somewhat as the Master (or Missy as she would be now) to Buck Danny’s Doctor.
No-Fly Zone is the third of the eight Buck Danny books that Bergèse illustrated and the second that he wrote – he passed away in 2008, the same year that the eighth book was published. His aircraft artwork is excellent, being both detailed and highly accurate, and as an aviation enthusiast I accept the story twists he uses to introduce different types of aircraft into his tales. However his plotting and dialogue can be pedestrian which can and does take the edge off these books, which is a shame really as I would like to enjoy them more than I actually do.
As with the previous Buck Danny books, No-Fly Zone boasts excellent aviation artwork that the writing doesn’t quite keep up with.
• There are more details of the English language Buck Danny books on the Cinebook website.
• There are more details (in English) of the French language Buck Danny books on the Dupois website.