by Jean Van Hamme & Philippe Franq
(Comprises the original Volume 1 The Heir and Volume 2 The W Group)
I’m rather approaching Largo Winch the wrong way, I first read Volume 3 and now I’m here with Volume 1. But it really doesn’t matter, in much the same way that it doesn’t matter what James Bond film you start with – the key elements are so easy to pick up and, thanks to Cinebook collecting each of their volumes with two original volumes, you get one complete story in each of these Largo Winch thrillers. And like I said in that review of Volume 3:
Largo Winch is an absolutely cracking thriller. Incredibly cinematic in it’s plot and pacing and essentially it’s a great James Bond movie but without the ridiculously overblown set pieces that rather take something away from the essential brilliance of Fleming’s books. It’s a much underused way of writing genre thrillers, intrigue and planning over action, plot and characters over car chases and it’s a style I’ve always loved.
All you need to know to really enjoy Largo Winch is the neat little summary on the back cover:
“No family, no connections, anti-establishment, womanizer, wanderer, iconoclast and fighter, he inherits at age 26 the W group, which is worth $10 billion.
Just like Volume 3, I found Volume 1 to be an absolutely engrossing bit of escapism, full of all the thrills and complex plotting I’d enjoyed first time around. This time it’s the story of how Largo came to inherit his adoptive father’s $10 billion dollar W Group (which, these days is the equivalent to buying Marvel Comics twice over with a spare $2 billion). As you might expect, it’s packed with action, exotic locations, fights, car chases, intrigue and more than a little corporate wheeler dealing and business speak.
(One of these men around the boardroom table wants Largo Winch dead. And the others just want his company. From Largo Winch: The Heir)
Largo is the adopted son of Nerio Winch, the man who built up the $10 billion W Group and has kept Largo’s existence secret from the world for 25 years to give him a chance to be normal and a chance to train for the massive undertaking of controlling the W Group. This story deals with Largo’s inheritance following his father’s death and the lengths that someone around the boardroom table will go to to keep him from taking his place as head of the W Group. It starts as it means to go on, with Largo attacked in Turkey, thrown in jail, set-up by one of the board of the W Group. From here, it’s off to the boardroom in New York, where Largo’s about to find out just how honourable the presidents of his fathers company can be. And then it’s off on a rollercoaster of an adventure as Winch sets about proving his credentials to the board, showing them he really is the man to head the W Group and in the process, flushing out the murderer amongst them.
(Suave, sophisticated, knowing, anti-establishment and looks great in a suit. Swoon. Largo Winch sets off to prove his worth to his board. From Largo Winch: The Heir.)
It’s elegantly done, a real page turner of an adventure with Van Hamme carefully setting up many disparate plot threads across the world and cleverly and seamlessly tying them all up at the book’s end. The pace is never allowed to flag for a moment, with Van Hamme cutting between action and embellishing scenes to maintain the pace. And it all just works quite brilliantly. In a book of this sort you may have expected the action to take centre stage, but you’d be surprised; Van Hamme is so good at plotting his set-pieces that I actually found myself enjoying the board-room battles more than the out and out action sequences – but in essence, the way Van Hamme writes them, these complex boardroom stand-offs are just as tense, just as volatile and just as exciting as any car chase. And that’s all part of what makes Largo Winch such an enjoyable piece of escapism. Similarly the art by Franq is a joy of tight, controlled dynamism, action sequences and boardroom confrontations are full of tension, the scenery and backgrounds to the pages are truly beautiful, as are the many women who fall for Largo’s charms.
(Just because I’ve focused on the boardroom battles so far with the artwork, I wouldn’t want you thinking there’s no action in Largo Winch – there’s plenty, and it’s all as beautifully drawn by Philippe Franq as this scene)
( And what is any truly great piece of escapist thriller action with a Bond-like leading man without beautiful women? And Philippe Franq does draw some very beautiful women. But then again, he draws some very beautiful men as well.)
Largo Winch is wonderfully good, old fashioned escapism. But it’s also very cleverly done, a thriller with a brain. Perfect stuff. It’s my favourite of all the Cinebook releases I’ve seen so far. I’m off to track down Volumes 2 & 4 right now – all 4 volumes are available here.