Another classic of Franco-Belgian graphic fiction. A must-read introduction to the adventures of Captain Francis Blake and Prof. Phillip Mortimer! Welcome to Blake and Mortimer -The Yellow M, created by Edgar P. Jacobs.
Picture London after World War 2. The city is haunted by a masked criminal calling himself the Yellow “M”. This outlaw isn’t like others of his ilk though. He announces all his crime in advance, daring the police to stop him.
When the Yellow “M” steals the British crown jewels, MI5 head Captain Blake is called in. Blake quickly realizes that this isn’t an ordinary case of theft.
The villain seems to be able to knock out guards and bystanders through some mysterious power. Nobody remembers what happened before they lost consciousness.
Stumped, Blake calls in his best friend and fellow adventurer Prof. Mortimer.
What starts out as a grand heist, quickly turns into a personal vendetta. It seems like the Yellow “M” is targeting select members of London’s exclusive Centaur Club. Kidnapping them one by one, right under the noses of the police.
What does an old libel case have to do with the Yellow “M”? Are sinister supernatural forces at work in London? And what happens when the super powered villain comes for Blake and Mortimer? Read on to find out…
Welcome to the World of Edgar P. Jacobs
Edgar P. Jacobs is one of the godfathers of Franco-Belgian graphic novels. A close friend of Herge, Jacobs was the inspiration for the well-loved Tintin character Captain Haddock. He was also key in re-colorizing and re-drawing early Tintin stories. He was an active part in the development of Tintin into the series we know and love today. Jacobs provided artwork and story line ideas to some of Herge’s best Tintin stories (e.g. The Seven Crystal Balls).
Unfortunately Herge was a bit of a diva and refused to share credit with Jacobs. But they remained close friend for life.
What Jacobs is remembered for is his popular graphic novel series –Blake and Mortimer. This series is his legacy to the world of graphic fiction. And once again we can thank Cinebooks (from the UK) for bringing this gem to the English speaking world. Before 2007 none of Jacobs stories were available in English.
Back to the story…
The Secret of the Centaur Club
London is in uproar. Blake meets Mortimer in the ‘old boys’ Centaur Club. While the Yellow “M” started out mild and sensational crimes, he is escalating. Blake fear he might not stop at murder now. Also the British government is concerned. All this commotion so soon after World War 2? Maybe this is all part of some foreign powers plan to destabilize the empire!
Mortimer suddenly gets up and rushes to the window. He thinks somebody might have been eavesdropping on their conversation.
Before they can think any further on it, in walk an eminent bunch of Blake’s fellow club members. We meet: Leslie Macomber –Chief Editor of The Daily Mail; Sir Hugh Calvin –judge at the central criminal court; Prof. Robert Vernay –of the British Medical Association; and Dr. Jonathan Septimus –attaché of the psychiatric institute.
The men are having a spirited discussion about the Yellow “M” and his state of mind. Each man seems to have some sort of professional interest in this case.
After dinner the men leave the club. Vernay and Septimus decide to walk home. Halfway home, Septimus gets agitated and decides to take a cab instead. Vernay decides to keep on walking.
A police man sees the professor round a dark corner and hears a sudden scream. Rushing towards the scream, the officer is just in time to see a card speed away. Hmm…
On further inspection, the police find Vernay’s hat on the ground with a yellow “M” painted next to it.
A Crackpot Book, A Court Case and A Personal Vendetta
This sets off a series of kidnappings from which no club member is safe.
Marcomb is abducted from his office at the newspaper. Right under Blakes nose.
Judge Calvin is taken from his home library. With police Chief Inspector Kendall knocked out right outside.
Dr. Septimus is next. Blake and the police decide to take him out of London by train and hide him in the country side.
Mortimer uses this time to search through back issues of the Daily Mail. He is sure he read something that connects all the Yellow “M”’s victims to each other a few years ago.
Mortimer finds reports on an old libel case involving a book called ‘The Mega Wave’. Written by the mysterious Dr. John Wade, the book describes some far-out scientific concepts. Its publication was ridiculed by academics and journalists alike. The books editor James Thornley died after losing the court case.
Each of the kidnapped men was involved in the case.
Is the Yellow “M” out for revenge? Who is the secretive Dr. John Wade? Will Blake and Mortimer manage to save Dr. Septimus and the other kidnapped men?
Read Blake and Mortimer The Yellow “M” to find out!
The Art and Writing of Blake and Mortimer -The Yellow M
I really enjoyed this graphic novel. Jacobs tells an interesting tale. It’s also a good introduction to the Blake and Mortimer series.
Mind you the dialogue and description get a bit wordy sometimes. But it all adds to the story.
The Yellow “M” isn’t the first volume in the series, Cinebook just decided to publish it first. There were several other Blake and Mortimer novels before this one and it show. The characters make reference to the events of ‘The Mystery of The Great Pyramid’.
But that doesn’t take away from The Yellow “M”. You can understand and appreciate the story without first reading The Great Pyramid. In fact, the Yellow “M” is a better introduction to the world of Blake and Mortimer. Publishing the books in this order just makes them flow better, story wise.
Edgar P. Jacobs’ style is awesome. Its classic Ligne claire but more detailed. With more realistic proportions and character anatomy than Herge’s Tintin.
Jacobs render a beautiful and authentic late 1940s London. As Blake and Mortimer move through the city you feel it come alive. He takes care with setting up each panel. His characters are unique and have personality.
Unlike other Ligne claire illustrators, Jacobs isn’t afraid to use shadows. But he does so sparingly and to good effect.
The Yellow “M” is a fantastic adventure thriller. It’s also family friendly. So if you like a must read graphic novel that you can share with the whole family this is it. Like Tintin, Blake and Mortimer are part of classic Franco-Belgian graphic fiction.
If you want to explore graphic novels outside the usual US staples this is a good place to start. Also a good, clean pallet cleanser before you get into some more heavy graphic novels.
PS: This is one is a keeper, get it for your collection if you like graphic novels.
Click here to order your copy of Blake and Mortimer- The Yellow “M” in paper back today.
Read Ninth Art Delight’s Tintin and the Blue Lotus review here –it’s another Franco-Belgian masterpiece and awesome read!