This is the second Tintin album (1930 remake 1931) and it is my least favorite Tintin album for reasons that I will explain later.
Tintin and his talking dog Snowy (Milou in French) travels to the Congo to hunt for trophies, take wild life photographs, and to write a story for his newspaper. The trip is very eventful and Tintin and Snowy encounters criminals, American gangsters, a shark, a lion, snakes, crocodiles, other wild animals, hostile natives, an evil medicine man and much more. Tintin's dog Snowy is also made into a King by the natives and they are eventually worshipped as Gods. The story is fast paced and entertaining. The dialogue is witty and the illustrations are colorful and eye catching.
This edited version is not as bad as the original version with the exploding Rhinoceros; however, it still is problematic. The Belgian Colonists are depicted as the white nice masters while the Africans are depicted as lesser knowing primitive people that are unable to govern themselves. The book is never hateful or intentionally offensive but it is still borderline racist.
The favorable depiction of the Belgian Colonists is also disingenuous considering the problematic history of Belgian Colonial rule in the Congo. This story takes place just 20 years after the end of the Congo Free State. The Congo Free State was a corporate state privately controlled by Leopold II, the King of the Belgium. During this time Congo was plundered of its resources and the population was decimated through what could be described as genocide. An estimated 10 million people were murdered during this time. To gain perspective; 2-15 million Native Americans were killed by European Colonist (Spanish, Portuguese, French, and English) during a few hundred years and the Nazis killed 16 million people through Genocide (see R.J. Rummel). It should be noted that Herge probably did not know any better.
As a kid in Sweden I enjoyed reading all of the Tintin albums and my American kids have also read them. All of the albums are quite entertaining but some of them are less entertaining or have problems, like this one. What ever you do don't let this album be your first Tintin Album. However, if you already have several of them I would still recommend it.
Finally I would like to list all the Tintin albums in order from my favorite to the one I liked the least. I will make this list into a list mania list next but put it here for easy access.
Skip this list if you don't want to read it (I know it is very long).
(1) Tintin in Tibet (5 stars). It was published 1960. It is my favorite Tintin. Tintin's friend Tchang (from Blue Lotus) is lost in a plane crash in Tibet. Everyone thinks he is dead, but not Tintin, who sets out to find him against all odds. It contains adventure, humor, and mystery; however, it is also about the human spirit, and compassion. Therefore it is also a very inspiring and thought provoking adventure.
(2) Blue Lotus (5 stars). This is Herge's first master piece; it is one of my favorites. This Tintin adventure from 1934 takes place in 1931 but is still the second best Tintin (after Tintin in Tibet) as far as I am concerned. Tintin is fighting Opium gangs in China when Japan invades. This adventure is dark, scary, exciting and fun. It is also a history lesson to a certain extent.
(3) Flight 714 (5 stars). This book was published in 1968. Tintin and his friends are invited to fly in the private jet of the billionaire Lazlo Careidas. The private jet is hijacked and they are taken by their kidnappers to a very mysterious Island. This adventure is filled with surprises, humor, it is fast paced and exciting, and is therefore one of my favorites.
(4) The Crab with the Golden Claws (5 stars). This was the first Tintin I read as a kid (in Swedish). It was also the first Tintin movie I saw. This is the book where Tintin met Captain Haddock for the first time. Just like the other later works by Herge it is exciting, and well drawn, but this is one is also very funny. It will make you and your kids laugh out loud.
(5) The seven Crystal Balls (5 stars). This Tintin published 1948, is eerie, mysterious, and exciting. It is the first one of a series of two, the second being "Prisoners of the Sun". In this adventure the members of an expedition that investigated the tomb of Rascar Capac an Inca King, become sick with a strange horrible disease. The mummy taken from the tomb mysteriously vanishes (escapes?) during a fierce thunderstorm.
(6) Prisoners of the Sun (5 stars). This is the second book of a series of two. Tintin and company end up in Peru. They save a boy Zorrino from Peruvian racists. Zorrino guides them to the Inca Empire which still exists underground in the Jungle. Towards the end Tintin saves himself and his company by using his knowledge of a coming solar eclipse. It was later plagiarized by Mel Gibson in Apocalypto.
(7) The Castafiore Emerald (5 stars). This adventure was published 1963. It is absolutely the funniest of them all. It is filled with a lot of good humor. However, to get all the jokes you need to be familiar with Tintin and Captain Haddock already. So I would not recommend this as your first Tintin.
(8) The Red Sea Sharks (5 stars). This adventure was written in 1958. Tintin stumbles into an organization selling African slaves (slavery still existed in the Middle East and Africa in 1958). A lot of old crooks from other books show up here, including Captain Allan, Rastapopolous, Dr. Muller, etc. This book is intensely exciting and full of action and is therefore one of my favorites.
(9) Tintin and the Picaros (5 stars). This adventure published 1976 is full of fun and adventure. Castafiore is being held by General Tapioca innocently accused of plotting against him. Well if you know Castafiore you now feel sorry for the poor old dictator.
(10) Explorers of the Moon (5 stars). Written 1954 this is the second book in a series of two. This book is a lot more exciting and fun compared to the first (Destination moon). The movie is, however, better than the comic book (they are the same but this comic makes a good movie). However, reading this science fiction style comic book is a lot of fun.
(11) Land of the Black Gold (4 stars). This book was published in 1950 (original version 1948). It takes place in the middle east and is about oil, war, and the fight against criminals like Dr. Muller (German villains were no longer taboo). Prince Abdullah the son of the Emir of the Arab Emirate of Khemed is kidnapped and Tintin and company sets out to rescue him.
(12) Red Rackham's Treasure (4 stars). This is the second book in a series of two, the first one being "The secret of the Unicorn". In this adventure Tintin and Captain Haddock goes on an expedition to find the treasure of Sir Francis Haddock. It is in this book we meet Professor Calculus for the first time. His underwater machine turns out to be invaluable, even though Tintin and Captain Haddock at first reject it.
(13) The Secret of the Unicorn (4 stars). This adventure was published in French 1943. This is the first book in a series of two (the second being Red Rackhams treasure). In this adventure it is discovered that Captain Haddocks forefather was a feisty sea captain who fought pirates and left a treasure behind. It is not as fast paced as many other Tintin adventures and contains a considerable amount of detective work.
(14) The Calculus Affair (4 stars). In this adventure Professor Calculus is kidnapped in Geneva and Tintin and Captain Haddock set out to save him. It turns out that Professor calculus is working on a secret weapon that the fictional country of Borduria really wants to have. It is an exciting adventure but not as humor filled and exhilarating as some of the other adventures. It was written 1956.
(15) The Cigars of the Pharaoh (4 stars). The Cigars of the Pharaoh is the first of the better Tintin books. In this adventure Tintin is on a holiday cruise but ends up traveling to Egypt and India on a dangerous adventure. It is an exciting and mysterious adventure that is not objectionable (unlike the three first ones).
(16) The broken ear (4 stars). This story from 1937 takes place in South America. Tintin fights dangerous crooks, gets caught up in political turmoil, is nearly executed, travels through the rain forest, encounters piranhas, and lives among the Arumbaya Indians. This is where Tintin meets General Alcazar for the first time. Lots of action but it is still not a top quality Tintin.
(17) King Ottokar's Sceptre (4 stars). Published in 1939 this book is an allegory for fascist aggression. In this adventure Tintin visits the mythical Kingdom of Syldavia. The leaders of Borduria, a neighboring country, plot to unseat King Muskar. They attempt to seize the symbol of the Syldavian monarchy, which is "King Ottokar's Scepter". This adventure was exciting but still not a favorite of mine.
(18) The Black Island (4 stars). FOUR STARS: This one was written 1937. It takes place in England and Scotland. I saw the movie version, and read the book in several languages. In this adventure Tintin is hunting down a gang of forgers. The drawings have a higher quality than "The broken ear" and the story flows smoothly. However, I find the story to be somewhat tedious and too British for me, and this is not one my favorites.
(19) Destination Moon (4 stars). First published 1953, this is the first book in a series of two (the second being Explorers of the moon). It is a very good concept, a sort of Tintin science fiction. However, it is not fast paced and at times tedious.
(20) Tintin and the lake of the sharks (4 stars). Published 1974 and based on a film from 1972, it is a little different than the other Tintin adventures. It is not directly written by Herge, but Herge supervised the creation of the film. The drawings are not typical either; they look like still pictures from the movie. It is also a little shorter. However, it is still a good adventure and my kids like it, so I give it four stars.
(21) The shooting star (4 stars). In this adventure (from 1941) the world comes close to annihilation when earth almost collides with a star. Tintin and Captain Haddock sets out on an expedition together with a team of international scientists to find a piece that broke off and landed in the Ocean. Well, stars are not solid and pieces don't brake off stars, but there are a lot more oddities in this unlikely story.
(22) Tintin in America (3 stars). Tintin in America" portrays America with an old fashioned European prejudice that is unrealistic and unflattering. His portrayal of the Indians is borderline racist, and the plot is essentially "gangster tries to kill Tintin, Tintin miraculously escapes" repeated a couple of dozen times. Having said that, the book is still entertaining, in its own way.
(23) The adventures of Tintin in the land of the Soviets (3 stars). This is anti-communist propaganda, which I don't mind; however, it does not make a good comic book. The drawings are also not that good. However, this comic book shows that people knew about the Soviet horrors back in the 1920's.
(24) Tintin in the Congo (3 stars). It was an exciting adventure with some interesting and fun twists. However, the quality is very far from that of the more modern Tintin books, and it is borderline racists.