Largo Winch Volume 8: Shadow
By Jean Van Hamme and Philippe Francq
Okay, I’m on rather a Van Hamme high at the moment. In the last couple of days I’ve polished off the 6th volume of XIII and then, straight after, underneath that rather brilliant cover – this 8th Cinebook volume (12th part) of the Largo Winch saga.
And I can honestly say that I can’t really choose between XIII and Largo Winch as my favourite series right now.
Both are thrilling genre pieces, both feature some perfectly realised artwork, and they both provide some fantastic escapism from an absolute master – there really is no one who writes a better thriller than Van Hamme.
But where XIII is the continuing quest style drama and super-serious with it, Largo Winch is more James Bond like, with Winch (and Van Hamme) allowed a little fun here and there. And it’s this fun that marks Largo Winch out from the serious thriller of XIII.
Shadow is the conclusion of the story begun in Volume 7; Golden Gate. This is how every Largo Winch story works – first volume sets it all up, establishes the threat and usually drops Largo and his friends into some dire jeopardy by the cliffhanger ending. The second volume is the explosive finale, packed with action.
I could recap what’s gone before, but instead I’ll make use of this single page summary included at the front of Shadow (click through for a bigger image):
There you go. Enough to allow you to jump right in and follow the review, but promise me you’ll not attempt to read Shadow with just this as a set-up – that would just be spoiling it for yourself.
Because missing out on Golden Gate would mean missing the careful political and financial maneuverering of Winch’s opponents, that puts him and his chief administrator Dwight Cochrane in prison and his friends in danger. It’s very much a story made far more enjoyable when the two parts are read together.
Of course, this being Largo Winch, it’s not all action in this concluding part, and there’s still time for some more of that political and financial maneuvering that I do really enjoy:
So, as usual with Van Hamme’s Largo Winch we have a perfectly constructed, perfectly paced, thrilling page turner of a story. But it’s too easy to put all of this down to Van Hamme and neglect the role of Philippe Francq.
His figure work is gorgeous, his locales exotic yet real, his beautiful people (male and female) are drop dead stunning, his architecture, his layouts, his action sequences – everything is pitch perfect.
(Van Hamme may write them, but it’s Francq who makes those action sequences really come alive for the reader. From Largo Winch: Shadow, published by Cinebook)
By this stage, my enjoyment of Largo Winch (or XIII) doesn’t really come from the thrills I find in the pages, since they’re thrills I’ve come to expect. No, the plentiful enjoyment I have when reading Largo Winch (and XIII) is knowing what is to come but enjoying how well the authors deliver.
I know Winch, our billionaire businessman who always lives up to his back-cover billing of “womanizer, wanderer, iconoclast and fighter” is always going to be the hero, always going to be the target of financial and physical threats. And, just as I know they’re coming, also know that the resolution will be thrilling, fun and predictably exciting.
As good as Van Hamme is (and he’s very, very good), the work by Francq is every bit as good. Largo Winch becomes, at the hands of these two equal partners, something truly exceptional.