In Review: The Bluecoats – The Skyriders

The Bluecoats are two members of the Union cavalry during the American Civil War, the enthusiastic Sergeant Cornelius Chesterfield and the reluctant Corporal Blutch. In The Skyriders, having survived a battle that decimated their cavalry troop and with their commanding officer, Captain Stark, captured by the Confederate Army, Chesterfield and Blutch are volunteered as observers in one of the new tethered observation balloons just introduced on the Union side. From this lofty vantage point they discover where Stark is being held and hatch a plan to untether the balloon and use it to rescue him.

The Bluecoats were created by writer Raoul Cauvin and artist Louis Salverius with art duties taken over by Willy Lambil on Salverius’ death after the fourth book. The series began as Les Tuniques Bleues in the weekly Spirou comic in 1968 with the stories being collected into albums and to date there have been a remarkable 53 Bluecoats albums published in French. A single album was translated and published in English by Reney in the US in 2004 under The Blue Tunics title before Cinebook took up the series last year. The Skyriders was originally published as Les Cavaliers Du Ciel in Spirou in 1975 beginning in issue 1940 and running for another 12 issues before being collected in 1976 as the eighth album in the series.

What is obvious from the cover, but not perhaps from the synopsis above, is that The Bluecoats is a humour title. Lambil’s art is both fun and impressive with the amount of historical detail he includes while Cauvin has chosen an interesting and little known part of the American Civil War, the use of tethered observation balloons for reconnaissance and artillery spotting, and builds it into an amusing story. However it is just amusing rather than funny.

Now while I enjoy reading war comics and have enjoyed other adventure styled humour titles from Cinebook such as the Ancient Egypt based Papyrus and spy themed Clifton, for me, war and humour makes for an uncomfortable mixture. Asterix and Obelix might punch out every Roman soldier in sight but they don’t run them through with swords or spears, however in The Skyriders Confederate soldiers are shot at point blank range and don’t get up again while cavalry charges involve swords aimed at the enemy. Perhaps that is why while I find the story amusing, I don’t find it funny.

Having said that, and considering that there have been 53 Les Tuniques Bleues albums published in the last 38 years, this is a series that has an impressive ongoing popularity in France and Belgium where there are obviously many readers that find it funnier than I do.

There are more details of the English language editions of The Bluecoats on the Cinebook website.

There are more details of the original Dupuis editions on Les Tuniques Bleues website (in French).

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