XIII Volume 9 – another adventure, another identity. (trust in Van Hamme, trust in Van Hamme…..)
By Jean Van Hamme and William Vance
The return of Van Hamme’s amnesiac super-agent for the ninth volume (of nineteen). And the second volume in a row where I’ve felt a little pang of disappointment with the storyline so far.
Last volume there was a conclusion of sorts, the initial plot resolved, and XIII made one huge enemy for the future. My problems with that volume could have been put down to simply the almost inevitable sense of anti-climax after such a fantastic set-up.
But now we’re in the post conclusion come down, and it’s the first moment in XIII where it seems just a little flabby, a little too repetitious. We’ve uncovered the true identity of XIII – as far as we know, but let’s face it Van Hamme is bund to throw spanners in that particular works before we get to the 19th and final volume. And now we’re wondering where we’re going. The answer… at least at first, appears to be down the same old route of new identity, new adventure.
There’s even a moment right at the start of this latest volume of XIII where Van Hamme appears to be reveling in the increasingly preposterous storylines of XIII, and is possibly having a little joke with his readers, as he sends his amnesiac super-agent on yet another mission, with yet another clue to his identity:
(Jones rather hits the nail on the whole multiple identity head here. From XIII: For Maria by Van Hamme and Vance, published by Cinebook)
Now, in Volume 9, XIII finds himself quickly immersed into both this new adventure and new identity, one concerning the 6 missing years he has absolutely no recollection of. He and Major Jones find themselves in search of a woman who may, or may not be the woman he married during those missing years.
But true to form, she couldn’t just be (in Jones’ words) “some fat mujer, half-a-dozen brats hanging onto her skirts”. No, this woman happens to be the leader of the democratic guerrillas in the Central American country of Costa Verde. And right now she’s awaiting execution in a maximum security fortress. Time for XIII to plunge head-first into trouble again.
There’s a big possibility that XIII has been here before, with several references to “El Cascador”, fabled Irish freedom fighter. Was XIII the Irishman? It’s possible, particularly as we know the penultimate volume (the one illustrated by Moebius) has the title The Irish Version.
(Dangerous and pretty – just XIII’s type. From For Maria by Van Hamme and Vance, published by Cinebook)
The sense of Van Hamme simply treading water at this stage, stringing it all out a little too much, is strong. But once the surprising revelation of the missing wife hits, along with the surprising feeling in this reader that maybe Van Hamme needs to move things on a little, the action kicks in and we’re back in familiar territory.
Yes, it may be Van Hamme treading a little water, but it’s certainly the usual fun filled adrenaline rush with XIII doing his action thing whilst Van Hamme paddles for a while. And that’s just about enough to get me over my problems with XIII at this stage.
No-one does this sort of action as well as Van Hamme. And even here, at the flabby mid-point, the action is still action-packed, the thrills are still ever so thrilling and the fun of the book sees me through to the end.
I imagine we’ve a few more of these middle bit stories to come before we hit the point where Van hamme begins the long wind-up to the real conclusion of the story. But thankfully, just as it is here, I imagine the sheer fun of the read will see me through to what I’m hoping, trusting, will be a spectacular and worthy conclusion.