By Jean Van Hamme and William Vance
XIII is one of my favourite Cinebook releases, in fact, over the course of the 7 previous volumes, it’s one of my favourite books full stop. And with Volume 8 we do appear to have hit something of a natural conclusion, with the resolution of at least one of the mysteries that the amnesiac XIII has been struggling with sice the first volume.
The thing is, 8 out of 19 volumes in, I’m settling down to XIII now, enjoying it still, but beginning to take it for granted. It’s also a difficult thing to review every couple of months effectively saying the same thing over and over and over and over and over and over again.
All I can really say new here is that, although it’s still familiarly Van Hamme, there’s something not quite right, and for the first time since starting the series, I find myself pretty much knowing where Van Hamme is taking me, and I find my warm familiarity with the manner in which Van Hamme structures his story is tested and found slightly lacking. But only slightly. I’m still a fan, and I’ll still give Van Hamme the benefit of the doubt here. I think I’ll be with XIII right till that final volume.
This time we’re back to the original conspiracy that XIII found himself caught up in – the assassination of President William Sheridan. In the last 2 volume story, XIII found out more of his past, discovered where his father was killed, and of course, had his revenge. Now XIII, in his latest real identity as Jason McLane, is seemingly at peace, or at least temporarily at rest, with his identity seemingly settled – I’ll bet good money this isn’t his real “real” identity – Van Hamme’s not finished yet.
However, all this falls to pieces and we’re back on track when, on page one, XIII’s murderous pursuer, the hitman employed by Number I to silence XIII; The Mongoose, is back on the loose….
(The Mongoose is on the loose again, all the better to move XIII’s story along. From XIII Volume 8, by Van Hamme and Vance, published by Cinebook)
So, with The Mongoose free again, all we need is something to get XIII on the move again, some plot point that would allow him to start investigating all over again. Oh, here it is…. Wally Sheridan, the new President of the USA, having taken the job on from his assassinated brother William wants XIII to track down and identify Number I:
(Page 3 of Volume 8 – the setup page… by Van Hamme and Vance, published by Cinebook)
From here, we’re on very familiar ground, with XIII and poor Major Jones, lovestruck yet proud, femme fatale and continual victim at the hands of XIII’s enemies – although I am getting weary of seeing Major Jones talked up as an incredible miltary asset and then spending her time running around in skimpys, simpering over XIII, and generally being the faithful damsel in distress, knocked unconscious time and time again.
So, with Major Jones in tow, XIII heads off to Wyoming, tracking down Kim Rowland (Number XVII) in the hope of locating Number I. Lots of familiar faces and names return, we have action, intrigue, plot and counter plot and, if your memory is anything like mine, you’ll be desperately trying to remember the backstory.
XIII is always exciting, beautifully drawn by Vance, still hugely enjoyable, and is a hugely complicated thing – with multiple identities, multiple threats and Van Hamme delighting in keeping us all guessing every step of the way. Help is at hand soon though for those readers (like me) with increasingly poor memories – Volume 13 of the series (The Investigation) is the famous recap episode where it seems even Van Hamme acknowledged that perhaps he needed to give his readers a helping hand.
But like I said, this volume seems a little less satisfying than those so far. There’s a moment, almost at the end of this volume, where The Mongoose (and Van Hamme) seems to be sharing a joke with us readers…..
And in some ways, I have to agree, and it dovetails with my problems somewhat, there is a risk of over familiarity with the basic structure of every XIII volume being pretty much the same. And no doubt some readers will find this much more of a problem than I do. Because, despite having a few problems with this volume, I’m hopeful it’s merely a side-effect of Van Hamme having no alternative than to throw in a very rare simplistic, obvious resolution in his ongoing storyline.
We all know it’s a ridiculous series, but it’s a brilliantly done series. That I had an issue with this part is almost a non-issue. The series so far has been tremendous fun, one volume that was still entertaining despite not being up to the usual standards is hardly going to stop me seeing XIII through to what I expect to be a hugely entertaining conclusion.