XIII – more and more and more and … too much?

Published On July 9, 2012 | By Richard Bruton | Comics, Reviews

XIII Volume 13: Top Secret

By Jean Van Hamme and William Vance


“The Mongoose is dead. So is Number I. But, since he was the President of the United States, XIII’s friends are all on the run again. McLane, though, has been arrested, and he’s being judged in secret by the heads of the American intelligence community. Sentenced to life in a secret prison, he has no illusions that he’ll ever reach it. The ruthlessness of the NSA Director proves him right—but he’s not the only one who wants XIII dead.”

Okay, here we go again with another volume of Van Hamme and Vance’s action thriller with the man with the multiple identities and the memory problems ….. except it isn’t the one I was expecting is it Cinebook? In fact it’s not even Volume 13, not really…. it’s actually Volume 14. Because the proper Volume 13 of XIII, and dammit, it’s right there on the inside back page, is titled “The Investigation“. And according to Wikipedia it’s a sort of summary volume, neatly pulling it all together….. “Volume thirteen (XIII) is a special issue, where two journalists retrace the first twelve issues, clarifying and expanding the storyline.

I have no idea why Cinebook dropped that particular volume, maybe it’s simply that they didn’t feel it necessary. I don’t know. Personally I’ve got to say I’d have preferred to read the series the way Van Hamme planned it, and the idea of an investigation into the series, expanding on what we’ve already seen does appeal.

Anyway. It’s not included. So we carry on with the series as is. And we’re on a familiar path here… after pretty much neatly resolving everything from the start of the series, old XIII manages to find himself in a whole new load of trouble here after the events of The Trial.

And trouble for XIII means exactly what it always means; thrills and spills, death, mayhem, action, adventure, occasional mildly ridiculous plot contrivances, and Van Hamme being all Van Hamme-y. And if you’ve been following the series, or following these reviews, I reckon you all know being all Van Hamme-y is just fine in my eyes.

Except…. there were two moments in here where I started doing the eye rolling thing, where it all feels just a little forced, a little too much to accept.

First we get Van Hamme turning everything on its head once more, just moments it seems after definitively clearing up XIII’s identity for once and for all, no really, honest this time. Have I reached the point where it’s simply one identity switch too far?

And then there’s this moment….

That’s the scene where the Mongoose’s ex-associate announces that not only has she taken over his operation, she’s gone global, gone international. And frankly, gone a little big bonkers. Seriously? Executor? We need a crappy name for an assassins organisation worthy of the worst excesses of the Bond franchise? Oh dear.

So no, not the best. There’s still thrills, still intrigue, still excitement, action, adventure, explosions, devious shadowy politicians out to screw over XIII again, and again, and again. And I still read through as I normally do, with a knowing smile on my face. Just those couple of moments gave me pause.

And one other thing. I wasn’t sure of this, before heading back to earlier volumes, but even Vance’s normally beautiful line seems a little rushed, a little thicker, and not as beautifully clean as it di earlier on in the series. And looking back at Volume 1’s review, I think I’m right. Not as nice. Still good, please don’t think I’m saying it’s awful, but some of the fineness, the finesse has gone a little missing. So not the best volume, not at all. Enough to put me off seeing it all through to the end? Oh no, of course not, are you insane, even suggesting such a thing! I’m here for the duration. It’s still a great series, still lots of fun, just this time round there’s a few more faults with it than usual.

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About The Author

Richard Bruton

– Started in comics retail aged 16 at Nostalgia & Comics, Birmingham. Now located in Yorkshire, he’s written for the Forbidden Planet International Blog since 2007. Specialising in UK Comics and All-Ages comics, Richard’s day job in a primary school allowed him to build the best children’s graphic novel library in the country.

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