Yoko Tsuno volume 5: The Dragon of Hong Kong


By Roger Leloup translated by Jerome Saincantin (Cinebook)
ISBN: 978-1-84918-041-2

Indomitable intellectual adventurer Yoko Tsuno debuted in Spirou in September 1970 and is still delighting regular readers and making new fans to this day. These astounding, all-action, excessively accessible exploits of the slim, slight Japanese technologist-investigator are amongst the most intoxicating, absorbing and broad-ranging comics thrillers ever created.

The globe-girdling, space-&-time-spanning episodic epic was devised by monumentally multi-talented Belgian maestro Roger Leloup who began his solo career after working as a studio assistant on Herge’s Adventures of Tintin.

Compellingly told, superbly imaginative and – no matter how implausible the premise of any individual yarn – always solidly grounded in hyper-realistic settings and underpinned by authentic, unshakably believable technology and scientific principles, Leloup’s illustrated escapades were at the forefront of a wave of strips changing the face of European comics in the mid-1970s.

That long-overdue revolution featured the rise of competent, clever and brave female protagonists, all taking their places as heroic ideals beside the boys and uniformly elevating Continental comics in the process. Happily, most of their exploits are as timelessly engaging and potently empowering now as they ever were, and none more so than the trials and tribulations of Yoko Tsuno.

Her very first outings (the still unavailable Hold-up en hi-fi, La belle et la bête and Cap 351) were mere introductory vignettes before the superbly capable engineer and her valiant but less able male comrades Pol Paris and Vic Van Steen properly hit their stride with premier full-length saga Le trio de l’étrange in 1971 with Spirou’s May 13th issue…

Yoko’s exploits generally alternate between explosive escapades in exotic corners of our world, time-travelling jaunts and sinister deep-space sagas with the secretive, disaster-prone alien colonists from planet Vinea. However, for the majority of English translations thus far, the close encounters have been more-or-less sidelined in favour of intriguing Earthly exploits such as this gloriously gargantuan ground-shaker with hidden depths.

There have been 27 European albums to date. This tale was first serialised in 1981 (Spirou #2244-2264) and collected the following year as 16th album Le Dragon de Hong Kong. Due to the quirks of publishing it reached us Brits as Yoko’s fifth Cinebook outing: a delicious homage to monster movies displaying the technomantic trouble-shooter’s softer sentimental side…

In the years before China regained control of Hong Kong, Yoko is visiting a distant Chinese branch of the family when the boat she is travelling on is attacked by a colossal reptile. The beast is driven off but Yoko finds a claw fragment imbedded in a gunwhale and takes it to a local lab for analysis. The results are startling…

The boffin in charge declares the talon is from a creature which has been biologically manipulated. He’s seen other such samples recently, all provided by a seller in the harbour fishmarket…

On questioning the vendor, Yoko learns the oversized produce on offer comes from an abandoned typhoon-wrecked aquaculture farm on Lantau Island, but by the time she reaches the desolate area the sun is setting.

It’s a lucky break. With the growing darkness, a little girl with a lantern appears amongst the broken pens and enclosures and starts playing a flute. As Yoko watches, the scene becomes even more incredible as the sounds summon the monstrous lizard, which the child joyously addresses as Dai Loon

Astonished, Yoko watches the girl feed the beast and make it perform tricks, but the uncanny sight becomes deadly serious when a masked man in a motorboat roars in and tries to kidnap the little miss…

Yoko’s prompt and dynamic action drives off the thug and soon the sodden wanderer is sitting in front of fire whilst little Morning Dew’s grandfather relates the bizarre history of the scaly wonder.

It all began when a researcher from the Chinese mainland rented the enclosures from Dew’s father to use as test-beds for his experiments…

They varied in success, but when the storm came all the subjects escaped. The elderly guardian cannot explain the strange connection between the dragon and the child but worries for her safety and future as his own days are surely numbered…

Three days later, Yoko and Morning Dew are shopping in Kowloon before meeting the recently arrived Pol and Vic at the airport. The canny inventor has a few ideas about tracking the dragon and wants their technical assistance with the details…

The scheme garners almost instant rewards and the three friends are actually gently guiding the vast creature into their custody when both boat and beast are simultaneously attacked by another – even larger – sea dragon… and this one shoots fire…

And thus kicks off a spectacular and cunningly devised mystery monster-fest as our heroes uncover a cruel and deadly get-rich-quick scheme which endangers the entire region. There will be terror, destruction and tragedy before the villain is brought to book, and before the case is closed Yoko will assume one of the greatest and most rewarding responsibilities of her young life…

Complex, devious and subtly suspenseful, this fresh look at a classic plot crackles with electric excitement and delivers a powerfully moving denouement conclusion, again affirming Yoko Tsuno as a top flight troubleshooter, at home in all manner of scenarios and easily able to hold her own against any fantasy superstar you can name: as triumphantly able to apprehend swindlers and wrangle marauding monsters, aliens, mad scientists or unchecked forces of nature…

As always the most effective asset in these breathtaking tales is the astonishingly authentic and staggeringly detailed draughtsmanship and storytelling, which superbly benefits from Leloup’s diligent research and meticulous attention to detail.

The Dragon of Hong Kong is a stunning mystery mash-up which will appeal to any devotee of Holmes, Professor Challenger or Tintin.
Original edition © Dupuis, 1986 by Roger Leloup. All rights reserved. English translation 2010 © Cinebook Ltd.