A fetish originating with the Arumbaya tribe is stolen from the Museum of Ethnology, and replaced with a fake. Tintin knows it's bogus because the original had a broken ear, and discovers that two Spanish crooks are also interested in finding the thief. Heroes and villains end up in the small South American principality of San Theodoros where Tintin is set up and put in front of a firing squad. Saved by coup and counter-coup, Tintin is made Colonel and right-hand man of dictator General Alcazar, among whose officers appear those same two thieves.
'Ear' is full of typical Herge incident, from the comic pursuit of a splendidly abusive parakeet, to a suspenseful downriver kayak-trip in search of a mysterious, hostile tribe. Herge's satiric sense shows how the political instabilities of many South American countries, with their seemingly daily military coups, are fanned by greedy European and American arms manufacturers and oil companies. The European plunder of other civilisations, so memorably a feature of previous adventures, is once again shown to be disastrous, even fatal. There are some wondrous visual conceits, in particular the Arumbaya rainforest sequence, which, set against an abstract, gren backdrop, frames its physical movements (fights, chases etc.) into a mysterious Matissean dance. The representation of landscape and settlements, with the eye on revealing detail, is as resonant as ever.
All this is fine, but one can't help feeling the lack of density, the rather perfunctory nature of the whole.