Largo Winch Vol 5 & 6 – it’s the same old song – but it’s a bloody good song.
Jean Van Hamme and Philippe Francq
At this stage, after 6 volumes of Largo Winch, I know exactly what to expect from Jean Van Hamme’s adventuring businessman serial. The originality I saw in the very first story is gone, since every volume, every story, follows pretty much the same path – throw some adversity and business related threat into the life of Largo Winch, the “anti-establishment, womanizer, wanderer, iconoclast and fighter” who inherited the $10 billion W Group at just 26. Then spend the story seeing him think and fight his way out across two volumes. Then repeat with the next two, and again, and again. Only the scenery and the names change.
But it just doesn’t matter – because Van Hamme’s an absolute master of the form and, although the originality’s gone, the action, adventure and sheer exuberance of the thing, tied together with Van Hamme’s skilful craft and Franccq’s stylish visuals makes every Largo Winch a wonderful piece of pure, breathtaking escapism.
(Yep, the murders, the plots – definitely something Largo brought to the stuffy boardrooms of the W Group. And I, and many hundreds of thousands of satisfied readers wouldn’t have it any other way. From Largo Winch Volume 5, See Venice… published by Cinebook)
See Venice … And Die deals with Winch and his W Group embroiled in the machinations of Big Oil, an old business adversary and a shadowy figure in Venice somehow tied to an international kidnapping and extortion ring. That’s all you really need to know. The plot really isn’t the thing here, it’s all about the setup, the intricacies of the boardroom politics followed by the bursts of action, complete with exotic locations, femme fatales and Winch playing the perfect role of the cerebral action man. A heady, intense mix, a perfect thrill.
There’s an extended scene in “See Venice…” that sums up everything I love about the series: Winch is at lunch having the economic and political background to the story explained to him, he listens carefully, yet still finds time to eye up the waitress. Francq’s artwork plays around the room as the speech bubbles do the work and I find I’m entranced by the way it plays out, interspersed with a W Group employee fleeing an assassin in a futile attempt to get a fax to Winch.
The dialogue and setting of Winch’s scenes are so restrained and controlled, contrasting perfectly with the action away from Winch that’s so intense, until it all comes together and Winch is racing off in pursuit of the assassin, careering madly through the building, bullets flying, eventually climbing the outside of the building in a stunning climax to the set piece that’s been 16 pages in the making. Wonderful.
(Two scenes from the extended sequence in See Venice… that so perfectly sum up the thrill of a Largo Winch tale. A meticulous, tension building setting of the scene that explodes into action, with Francq’s art fitting both so beautifully. From See Venice… published by Cinebook)
Largo Winch is a fantastic and fantastical series. It’s not original, not anymore, but every time I finish a story I don’t think of it as unoriginal, I just luxuriate in the thrill of a great story, featuring a great front man, written and drawn with skill and style. Take your Bonds and your Bournes and throw them out, Largo Winch is the classiest action thriller around.