XIII Volume 6 – The Jason Fly Case
By Jean Van Hamme and William Vance
Okay; the quick version…. XIII is an amnesiac who washes up on the East coast of the US, with no memory of his past or his identity. For some reason there’s a roman numeral XIII tattooed on his collar bone and he’s in possession of a vast variety of physical and combat techniques, all of which points towards some specialist, covert role.
This 19 volume series takes a few initial ideas from Jason Bourne and then goes batshit crazy with Van Hamme filling the series with every possible twist and turn he can – every volume puts XIII in some new situation, with some possible clue to his own identity dangled in front of him, the whole thing usually going spectacularly wrong to the sound of gunfire, explosions, running and breaking things.
Now go back and read those two paragraphs without pause for breath and as fast as you can.
That’s the XIII experience. And I’m a big, big fan:
“.. I’m still grinning from ear to ear with childish joy after reading it, swept along by the sheer exuberance of van Hamme’s writing as he puts his protagonist through every brilliant thriller hoop he can think of.” Volumes 1 & 2.
“If my other favourite Van Hamme series Largo Winch cranks the excitement up to 10, then XIII just did a Spinal Tap and set everything to 11.” Volume 3.
“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.” Volume 4.
“But even though the ending was, in my humble opinion, rushed and flawed, having just read Volumes 1-5 all over again for writing this review, I’m still convinced that … XIII is a classy and classic piece of intriguing thriller.” Volume 5.
Volumes 1-5 put XIII right in the middle of a very high profile political conspiracy supported by beautiful Major Jones and rugged, knows a lot more than he’s letting on Lee Marvin-a-like General Carrington. XIII is pretty much bang to rights as the assassin of a Kennedy-esque US President, and consequently spends a lot of the time on a desperate run from all manner of people with asssorted weapons and plans for causing harm. And I did think the ending seemed rushed and a bit of a let-down. But I’m putting that down as a blip.
Well, this volume is the come down from XIII’s post conspiracy plot climax. A perfect time to plunge into XIII, unafraid of getting too confused. This is a simple one – XIII is off to pursue another lead to his identity – the Jason Fly persona.
(A relaxing trip to the psych, trying to investigate the mystery of his past life/lives – all beautifully rendered by Vance, and notice the subtle, much used this volume, shift between present and flash-back – all in the panel corners. Quite simple, yet Vance and Van Hamme tell the story so well, it’s completely natural. XIII Volume 6: The Jason Fly Case by Van Hamme and Vance, published by Cinebook)
But the post climactic comedown lasts a whole 5 pages before we’re back on track. This is, after all, Jean Van Hamme’s XIII, and if you really thought he was going to let up the pace so early on, you really haven’t been paying attention.
No, XIII gets right back on the action thriller horse, investigating this Jason Fly identity in the sleepy town of Green Falls in a story that introduces a lot of new characters, and surprise surprise, there’s some old mystery and conspiracy that threatens to blow up the minute XIII walks (back?) into town.
Very quickly XIII is back doing what Van Hamme gets him doing so well, Major Jones heads back with important information and we spend a great deal of the book in flashback, filling in the moments between the end of the presidential conspiracy and now, where XIII, Jones, Carrington and XIII’s psychiatrist attempt to fill in the past and help XIII put together his possible life as Jason Fly.
(Oh dear – that’s the psychiatrist done in. Being around XIII and not being one of the major characters does tend to have that result. From XIII Volume 6: The Jason Fly Case, by Van Hamme and Vance, published by Cinebook)
It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone with a passing interest in XIII that Jason Fly probably isn’t going to be the final, revealed in Volume 19, identity of XIII. It also shouldn’t come as a surprise that the journey to get there, is everything that makes XIII so much fun. This volume reads slightly differently, mostly due to the structural elements – mixing so many flashback sequences into the action really alters the feel of it.
And in lesser hands it may have ruined the volume. But Van Hamme and Vance pull the thing off so spectacularly well. There’s nothing to point out the extensive flashbacks aside from a subtle shift in the shape of the panel corners. But the storytelling of both men is so strong, so good, that it just naturally flows.
XIII Volume 6 is simply another volume in a fantastic series. And that’s a horrible, damning with faint praise way to describe it. But 6 volumes in of the 19 and I’m still looking forward to every new volume more than most things that cross my desk right now. It’s classy, exciting, wonderful fun. Couldn’t really ask for more.