XIII Volume 10…. El Cascador returns?
By Jean Van Hamme and William Vance
“Captured and imprisoned in the Roca Negra fortress, XIII is being tortured by the sinister Colonel Peralta. But, for all his pain and suffering, he’s also in the same building as Maria, the woman who may be his wife. And they have plenty of dedicated, resourceful friends outside… as well as at least one traitor. Still unsure of his past, Jason McLane will have no choice but to become the man known as “El Cascador” to clean up Costa Verde once and for all.”
Here we are, the halfway point of Van Hamme’s ridiculously twisty and turny action thriller, his “what if Jason Bourne’s story just kept going and going and going” thriller, where each new story means new identities, new threats, new conspiracies, new bad girls to throw in XIII’s way, new women to fall at his feet, new places to go, new impossible situations to get out of.
I’ve said some variation of this practically every time I’ve reviewed XIII, and I’ll say it again here with Volume 10, this is ridiculous, an overblown conspiracy thriller action adventure that would be dismissed as frankly over the top for something so prone to over the top as Hollywood.
But dear lord, is it a lot of fun or what? The slight flabbiness of last volume, the inevitable come-down from the conclusion of sorts in Volume 8 is forgotten, and we’re back on familiar, exciting, ridiculous ground here…. and there’s a helicopter chase in the early stages to prove it….
In the last volume “For Maria” we followed XIII on the increasingly spurious trail of bizarre coincidences and obviously manufactured clues to Costa Verdi and evidence that points not only to XIII being the Irish mercenary/freedom fighter El Cascador, but to his marriage to the deposed President’s daughter Maria.
Who is, of course, languishing in prison, due to be executed, which leads inevitably to XIII trying to rescue her, and just as predictably at the end of Volume 9 XIII ends up in dire straits in famed prison Roca Negra.
But predictably…. not for long….
And that’s where “El Cascador” picks up…….. there are fights, intrigue, manoeuvrings galore, a false ending three quarters of the way through the book leading to a climactic and very nicely drawn out courtroom scene.
Time and again I describe XIII as a thriller, as an action-adventure, yet it’s a continual surprise, a continual pleasure to realise that, yet again, Van Hamme and Vance are more than happy to thill and excite with their characters standing around talking at length. Brilliant storytelling.
Yep, XIII is ridiculous nonsense, but it’s bloody well done, hugely entertaining, absolutely enthralling nonsense….. Van Hamme is intent of sending us twisting and turning right up to Volume 19’s conclusion.
What started out as a fantastically over the top and original (well, apart from the whole Jason Bourne thing) thriller has settled down, in these middle sections as a fantastically fun thriller following a familiar path of identity, action, and thrills leading to the next stage of XIII’s possible true identity.
But the execution more than makes up for the repetition. And as usual, Vance’s artwork is top notch. And as usual, I fear my exuberance for the story rather underplays just how good, how skilful Vance really is. So as way of apology, have a couple of bits of close-up Vance beauty: