Cinebook returns to the American Civil War for their fifth book of The Bluecoats - Rumberley, written by Raoul Cauvin and illustrated by Willy Lambil, translating the 15th of Les Tuniques Bleues albums into English for the first time.
The war is raging fiercer than ever and it is taking its toll on the armies of both sides. After the latest battle Cavalry Corporal Blutch searches the battlefield for his friend Sergeant Chesterfield and gets the stretcher bearers to take the injured Chesterfield to the overcrowded field hospital. Both armies have lost so many men that they both have to retreat to gather reinforcements, but the Union General decides that he must leave his injured behind in the nearest town. The problem being that Rumberley is a Confederate town.
Before Cinebook started translating Les Tuniques Bleues as The Bluecoats, only one other album had made it into English when, in 2004, Reney Editions in the United States published the eleventh album Des Bleus En Noir Et Blanc as The Blues In Black And White under the series title of The Blue Tunics. You would have thought that if any English speaking country was going to like the American Civil War-based Bluecoats, it was going to be America - but it was not to be and Reney didn't publish any more. So it is heartening that Cinebook has now reached their fifth book in the series.
My initial reaction to The Bluecoats back in 2010 with The Skyriders was lukewarm when I didn't really take to the mixture of combat and humour. However this is the third Bluecoats that I have now read and I am starting to come round to this series. I never had a problem with Lambil's artwork which is fun when it needs to be and his splash panels here show off a remarkable number of characters as the two sides' troops clash in the main street of the town.
However it is Cauvin's plot that stands out here, beginning with a splash panel of the dead and dying of a major battle with the simple text box "No comment" ("Sans commentaire" in the original French version) which doesn't just set the scene for the plot, but something of the tone of the book as well. Rumberley is about the wounded of one army in the Civil War arriving in an unfriendly town, how not just their arrival but the war in general affects the non-combatant civilians of the town, and how, when the troops who are on the town's side return, the town's folk manage to get one over on both sides to their own benefit. This is also the reluctant Corporal Blutch's story in which, as one of the few able-bodied amongst the injured, he has to take on a greater responsibility for his comrades than he would normally be comfortable with, yet he still makes the most of any chances to wind up Sergent Chesterfield and even their badly injured Captain Stark.
The Bluecoats - Rumberley is a humorous tale with a little extra pathos that is helping me warm to this series of books.
• 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).
• Cinebook will be at the Bristol Comic Expo this weekend, 12-13 May 2012, 2012 and at BD and Comics Passion at L'Institut Français, London, 24-27 May 2012