Saturday, July 28, 2012

REVIEW: Smurfs volume 12: Smurf vs. Smurf

Writers: Peyo, Yvan Delporte
Artist: Peyo
Review: Will Dubbeld

Like many amongst us, I was first introduced to The Smurfs via the immensely popular Saturday morning animated series that premiered in the 80s. I enjoyed the show, but nowhere near the degree I enjoyed The Real Ghostbusters or Dungeons & Dragons. Or Star Wars: Droids.
Droids was amazing.

So, with Smurfs not as action oriented as my usual Saturday morning fare, they were quickly abandoned in lieu of Transformers and finding out what Half The Battle was.

Years later, imagine my surprise as I learned that the Smurfs cartoon was adapted from a long-running Belgian comic that premiered in 1958. The Smurfs (or Les Schtroumpfs in their native Belgian) comics tell the adventurous, cartoonish tales of a village of tiny blue creatures that exist in a somewhat Socialist co-op society led by the dictator-for-life Papa Smurf. This much we all know from watching the television show. Being completely unfamiliar with the comic however, I decided to order a volume of it and find out what the smurf it was all about.

Smurf vs. Smurf is actually a quite clever story. It involves a dichotomy in Smurf Village between the inhabitants of the north section of the village and those of the south section. It seems that the two sections cannot reach an agreement on the finer nuances of the Smurf language, stemming from an argument over the correct terminology for "bottle opener". One faction insists that it's called a "Smurf opener", the other prefer the term "bottle smurfer". The language war soon escalates, igniting a bitter feud betwixt the blue folk that turns friend into foe, smurfer against smurfer. The climax of this conflict happens during a stage performance of Little Red Riding Smurf where a riot erupts prompted by a heckler proclaiming "a crock of Smurf!"

Picketing follows, complete with signs proclaiming "down with northerners" and finally culminating with a dotted line being painted through the middle of the village in order to separate the northerners from the southerners.

Having used every tool at his disposal to stop his fellow Smurfs from fighting, a distraught Papa Smurf must enlist the aid of the sworn enemy of tiny blue folk everywhere, the largely ineffectual evil wizard Gargamel.

This was an immensely entertaining book, written in such a way as to keep the interest of younger readers, but sliding in enough clever bits of humor for adults. The book also has a social commentary, as I learned Smurf vs. Smurf was lampooning the real-life language war between French speakers and Dutch speakers in Belgium. I will admit that it the propensity of the word 'smurf' or 'smurfing' to be inserted into every sentence became tiresome, but I was able to sidestep this annoyance by replacing 'smurf' or 'smurfing' with a curse word of my choice.
Much to my own amusement.

The art was also excellent, with a sharp lined style that the animated series emulated very well and the colors were crisp and vibrant. Although this probably won't prompt me to revisit the animated series, I would be sorely tempted to check out more volumes of the comic, especially since the reader is in no danger of being exposed to a Brand New Day, a New 52, or worrying about Who Killed Retro Girl? in the pages of Smurfs.

This volume also features three backup stories, one of which involves smurfish ingenuity as Painter Smurf hooks a paint pot to a set of bagpipes and creates a primitive airbrush and another where the Smurfs go to the beach on vacation and run afoul of Gargamel's confection-selling cousin, Barbapapa.

Clocking in at 56 pages for the modest price of $5.99 I certainly feel like you Smurf your money's worth out of this book.
Or get your smurf's worth out of it, depending on which part of the village you hail from.

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