One night when on a walk with Snowy, Tintin notices a new star has appeared in the Great Bear. When he notices that the star appears to be growing larger, he questions the astronomer Professor Decimus Phostle about it and is told that the star is in fact a meteor that is due to collide with the Earth and cause The End of the World as We Know It
Fortunately, Phostle's assistant's calculations are proven wrong when the meteor ends up missing the Earth. However, a small piece of the meteor still crashes onto the planet and lands in the Arctic ocean, causing a short earthquake. When it is discovered that the meteor contains a hitherto unknown kind of metal, the story becomes a race with Tintin, Phostle, Captain Haddock and a team of scientists on one side and the Peary
, a crew hired by the villainous Mr. Bohlwinkel on the other side to be the first to reach the meteor's location and claim the new metal.
- Admiring the Abomination: Prof. Decimus Phostle is excited about the upcoming end-of-the-world meteor, saying such absurdities as "It will destroy the world tonight. Tomorrow, everyone will know my name for discovering it!"
- Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: Philippulus the doomsday prophet announces that the end of the world is nigh, and that those who survive the cataclysm will suffer from "pestilence, famine and measles." Granted, measles is a much more serious disease than most people think it is, but odds are it isn't going to be the main thing you're concerned about in the face of Armageddon.
- Art Shift: Ordinarily Herge's ligne claire style involves little to no depiction of shadows, but as Tintin wanders the streets after hearing about the impending meteor, his shadow, Snowy's, and those of other people and objects are portrayed in stark black ink (because of the new light source). This creates a chilly, high-contrast visual scheme for several pages, contributing a lot to the eerie atmosphere of anticipation before the meteor passes.
- Badass Beard: Philippulus.
- Binocular Shot
- Big Bad: Mr. Bohlwinkel.
- Brotherhood of Funny Hats / Weird Trade Union: Haddock and Chester seem to be in one for merchant captains, complete with bizarre greeting ritual.
- The Cameo: Thomson and Thompson make only a single panel cameo watching the Aurora depart. The same panel also includes a cameo by Quick and Flupke, the titular protagonists of one of Hergé's other series.
- Cloud Cuckoo Lander: Professor Phostle seems to be under the impression that discovering the meteor that will destroy the world is going to make him famous and is severely disappointed when it turns out it doesn't.
- Phillipulus the Prophet actually is insane.
- Corrupt Corporate Executive: Bohlwinkel.
- Depth Deception: The spider running across the lens of Phostle's telescope...
- Dreaming of Things to Come: Tintin dreams he is visited by Philippulus the prophet who then shows him a picture of a gigantic spider, claiming it is life size! Later in the story he actually meets Philippulus again and he discovers an island where a spider has grown to gigantic size due to the radiation of a comet.
- Eagleland: In the original version Bohlwinkel (or "Blumenstein") and the crew of the Peary are Type 2 examples. In the later versions they are instead from the fictional Banana Republic São Rico.
- The End Is Nigh: The astronomer Philippulus does this when he sees the meteor, claiming to be a prophet of God.
- Even Evil Has Standards: The captain of the Peary forbids one of his crew members to shoot Tintin when Tintin is about to claim the meteor for the Aurora.
- Friends All Along: Haddock and Chester.
- Fungus Humongous: Fast-growing, exploding mushrooms on the meteor!
- Giant Spider: Tintin briefly mistakes a spider crawling over the lens of Phostle's telescope for a planet-sized arachnid heading for Earth. Later, the radiation of the meteor creates a real Giant Spider.
- Go Mad from the Revelation: Philippulus.
- Greedy Jew:
- In the original edition, two Jews can at one point be talking about the end of the world, with one of them noting that if that were the case, he wouldn't have to pay his debts!
- Mr. Bohlwinkel also comes across to many as a steretypical Jewish caricature. Worse yet, in the orginal version (written under Nazi occupation), he was named Blumenstein and his country of origin changed to the fictional São Rico, which Hergé later changed in order to lessen the implications to Bohlwinkel... which is also a Jewish name.
- This leads to the further unfortunate implication that South Americans and Jews are interchangeable when it comes to appearance.
- Ham-to-Ham Combat: Philippulus versus Captain Haddock over who's in charge on the ship.
- Harmless Villain: Philippulus the "prophet".
- Mood Whiplash: The opening section (when it appears The End of the World as We Know It is coming) is very stark, introspective and terrifying with even Tintin's nerve cracking under the sense of unstoppable impending doom. The remaining two thirds are an exciting Race Against the Clock adventure - still tense but far lighter than the first few pages.
- My Brain Is Big: Professor Phostle has a very large forehead.
- Oddball in the Series: Let's just say you can tell it was written under Nazi occupation—not just the aforementioned use of Americans and Jews as villains, but also the general unreal and supernatural elements used in an escapist way, unusual for a Tintin book.
- Punny Name: Mr. Bohlwinkel's name was based on the Marol dialect (spoken by Flemish people in Brussels) expression bolwinkel, which means candy store.
- Race Against the Clock
- In the Urbanus story De Pretparkprutsers (The Theme Park Saboteurs) Urbanus is sent to an insane asylum, where one of the lunatics inside is Philippulus the prophet.
- Belgian comic strip artist Kamagurka once drew a funny review of the first pages of the story.
- The story is referenced on the album cover of X'Ed Out by Charles Burns.
- Vitriolic Best Buds: Captains Haddock and Chester. When they meet in Akureyri Tintin believes they are going to attack each other when they're really performing some odd salutation ritual.