By Jean Van Hamme and William Vance
Have a look at that cover. And again. Now turn the screen round and look at it upside down.
Okay? It does just look weird doesn’t it? Her face. The complete static feel to what is obviously meant to be an action shot. Just wanted to mention it whilst I was looking at that cover once more. Proof that even the greats blow it sometimes?
Okay…. Volume 14 and the pace is getting faster in Van Hamme and Vance’s ever more twisty thriller of the man with no memory, just a tattoo of XIII and a tortuous history packed with more identities that anyone can really keep track of.
Which is where the handy little reminder page at the start does help, although this time around it does really just concentrate on the more recent events that lead to XIII finding himself on a night train to San Diego with a group of enemy agents on board. (Hang on, that’s the end of From Russia With Love isn’t it?):
(Sorry it’s a touch small – click on image to read large size)
So here goes…. action on the train, escape with the enemy, or is she?,
Another escape, balloon this time, then onto a helicoptor.
Boom, helicopter down, XIII and female enemy who isn’t really an enemy get wet, get naked, get comfortable, spend the night going over a LOT of details in a double page spread of wordy wordy wordy panels,
Gunfight, loss, betrayal, flight again, regroup with old friends, betrayal again maybe, and end with XIII in another load of trouble.
That’s the basic plot of this one. I’m out of breath, how about you?
The key thing to note with that little lot is that bit in the middle where XIII and insignificant female agent who we all know by now isn’t long for this world spend a double page spread talking. And Van Hamme spends the time getting them to rehash the various plot points he wants to move forward. It’s written in a completely forced style, essentially just Van Hamme using the characters as summarisers for the reader, completely wrong for their individual voices.
There’s part of me wants to start throwing lazy writing accusations around, but frankly Van Hamme’s made this so damn complex at this point that I’m glad of any small reminder.
But despite that, there’s still the requisite amount of enjoyment in XIII, Vance doing it all very well again, back to tight stuff in this one, maybe I was imagining what I thought was an unfortunate loosening up on the art line last volume?
I mean, really, look at this scene on top of the train at the start of the volume….. it’s just bloody gorgeous…
See? Lovely stuff from Vance. And he’s on fine form here with both action and the talking head stuff, no matter how many explainatory word balloons Van Hamme decides to stick on the page!
So yes, Van Hamme’s writing and plot has the feel of someone realising they’re on the final downhill bit, and they need to move things on a bit before the final finale. But it’s still a great 48-pages of XIII fun, still something I cheerfully say I look forward to reading every couple of months. But for the first time since starting this XIII adventure, I realise there’s part of me that’s dreading seeing how Van Hamme finishes the story. Part of me is looking forward to it immensely sure, but what if he blows it? What if tit’s simply been built up and up and up and up to impossible to reach heights?
Oh what the hell. I’lll find out in a few volumes time. In the meantime I think I’m just going to settle backj and enjoy it for the fun it is.