I.R.$. – taxes have never been so thrilling…..

Published On January 3, 2011 | By Richard Bruton | Comics, Reviews

I.R.$ Volume 2: Blue Ice / Narcocracy

by Stephen Desberg and Bernard Vrancken


Okay, here’s another one of those Cinebook volumes that I could essentially point you at the review of Volume 1 and tell you that this one essentially says all the same things, just in a different order, with a different plot and have done with it.

The concept is exactly the same:

“Larry B. Max is a rare specialist from a little-known branch of the I.R.S. (Internal Revenue Service), the all-powerful tax-collecting agency of the United States. Reading tax-evasion and money-laundering rings like a virtuoso pianist would read a sheet of Mozart, he has every technological method at his disposal to find links between high finance and high crime.”

(Larry Max – certainly not your run of the mill I.R.S. agent. From I.R.$. Volume 2 Blue Ice, by Desberg and Vrancken, published by Cinebook.)

But this time around Max is drawn into the shady world of the huge drugs operation that exists between Mexico and the USA. Cue lots of james Bond-ish Euro action – that is, all the thrills and spills of Bond at his best but with an added layer of thoughtful intrigue on top.

Because as action packed as I.R.$ may be, it’s also full of immense amounts of exposition regarding the financial and tax elements of the story.

But please don’t take that as a bad thing – not at all – it’s the dazzlingly good exposition and the tax stuff that lifts I.R.$ above a standard Bond-ian adventure into the realms of really bloody great.

(Agent Max doing that wonderful exposition thing. From I.R.$. Volume 2 Blue Ice, by Desberg and Vrancken, published by Cinebook.

Really, there’s little point expousing the plot to you here – suffice it to say that the whole thing fair rattles along quite magnificently, keeping the suspense, the intrigue and the all-out action going until the very last page. But like I said before, the financial angle gives it that little something extra that easily tips it into the great thriller market occupied by Largo Winch and XIII.

My only slight concern with I.R.$ is with the art. Vrancken is capable of greatness and blandness – and he manages both in the course of this volume. I let it slide with volume 1, but it’s even more noticeable here. Some pages are simply beautiful, true enough – look at this one for example:

But his figure work just occasionally seems too static and too fixed, his detailing too indistinct. It just isn’t everything it can be and there were pages when this was enough to drag me out of my enjoyment of the story. Although thankfully, because Desberg’s story is so damn fun and thrilling, it’s a rare thing.

But still, I wish Vranncken’s art was the equal of Desberg’s story – that would make I.R.$ really, really good. Instead, it has to settle for merely really good, a cracking thriller with art that occasionally lets it down. As with most thrillers, the proof is in the reading – and this, yet again, was a one sitting read, just like the first volume. And that’s always a great thing. A sure sign of a cracking thriller for me.

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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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