XIII – SPADS …another volume of the best thriller around

Published On December 29, 2010 | By Richard Bruton | Comics, Reviews

XIII Volume 4: SPADS

by Jean Van Hamme and William Vance


Okay, let’s get this out of the way. It is a terrible cover. I know it is. Looks like a bad Photoshop job. I have no idea why the cover that’s actually all over the Internet wasn’t used, but nevermind. It honestly doesn’t matter. I just wanted you to know I’m not averse to criticising XIII.

Now,with that messy business over with, let’s start heaping praise on the book….. although frankly, after reviews of Volumes 1, 2 and 3 – I don’t know how many different ways you really expect me to tell you that this is a stunningly good thriller of a book.

This fourth volume of XIII sees the roman numeraled amnesiac who may (or may not) be the man who assasinated the Kenndy-esque US president whisked away from his jail time last volume by General Carrington, a man who, much like everyone else XIII meets, knows far more than he’s letting on.

Now called Ross Tanner, XIII finds himself in Carrington’s SPADS (Special Assault and Destruction Squads) and in between dealing with a potential murderous training instructor he’s attempting to discover more about the last identity he believed himself to be, fellow SPAD Captain Rowlands.

This volume has two very distinct plots carrying on side by side. We see XIII as SPAD Tanner and that’s got the action sequences. But far more illuminating and interesting is the plot in Washington featuring the mysterious Colonel Amos, General Carrington and Henry Sheridan – father of the assassinated president Sheridan. There’s a huge amount of exposition going on here, and Van Hamme really kicks the story up a gear.

To give you an idea of how complex and convoluted this tale of a man searching for his true identity against the backdrop of a dire political conspiracy XIII is proving to be Volume 4 has a two and a half page summary of what has gone before. A summary I have no hesitation in presenting here to you (and if you can’t make the text out simply click to make larger):

So there you go. Now you’re all up to speed on this one. It suddenly feels like Van Hamme has decided it’s time to drop a little of the game surrounding who XIII is and plunge instead into the reasons why he ended up washed up on the shoreline in the first place. It’s all beginning to knit together into one huge and complex and most enjoyable political thriller and there’s a feeling that we’re getting towards something approaching the final act – or possibly the end of the first act of this multi act 19 volume story.

XIII, Carrington, Amos and old man Sheridan are all caught up in dark political manouverings – could it be that whoever was behind the assassination of President Sheridan may be gunning for his younger brother Senator Wally Sheridan?

But if that is the case, if we really do find out who XIII really is, just what is Van Hamme going to amuse us with for the remaining 10 plus volumes after he (presumably) writes XIII’s part in overthrowing the conspiracy?

You don’t think he’s got more twists and turns for us after that do you? Oh, I do hope so. I so really do.

XIII really is turning into a book I put everything down for. Each new volume is read practically immediately. I know it’s going to continue to confuse and confound me. I know Van Hamme will continue to throw complication and tortuous twists and turns in my way until that very final volume 19. And it’s something I’ll look forward to happening each volume as I sit there relishing every insane twist, every complex turn.

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About The Author

Richard Bruton
- Started in comics retail aged 16 at Nostalgia & Comics, Birmingham. Now located in Yorkshire, he's written for the Forbidden Planet International Blog since 2007. Specialising in UK Comics and All-Ages comics, Richard's day job in a primary school allowed him to build the best children's graphic novel library in the country.

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