Reviews: Largo Winch – Bond done right, and with lots of money…
By Jean Van Hamme and Philippe Francq
A proposed deal between one of Winch’s companies and a Chinese group would require that the young billionaire come sign the contract himself in Hong Kong. But there is a problem: In his youth, Largo tangled with Chinese justice in occupied Tibet. He escaped from prison with the help of a Chinese arms smuggler, whose triad later helped rescue Simon from a Burma prison. But that help came with a price, and the triad will one day call in their favour.
Oh yes, and have a guess what day today is? Or at least a day coming very, very soon. About two-thirds of the way through the first part of this latest Largo Winch storyline actually. It was, as pretty much always, a wonderful first half to a tale.
Winch, like the just this month finished series XIII, is written by Jean Van-Hamme. And over the past couple of years the two titles have rather flip-flopped in my affections, both delivering a very Van-Hamm-y sort of experience, an action plus sort of thing, very genre based, very predictable in their structure, but hugely satisfying if you like that sort of thing (and I do). They are the nearest I can find right now to an all out intelligent action blockbuster, the movie brought to the comic page. Obviously XIII would be Bourne, which just as obviously makes Largo Winch James Bond, albeit with a lot less violence, and a damn sight more money.
That Van Hamme sticks to a template is not a problem, as he delivers the template extraordinarily throughout the series thus far; rich playboy Winch does some business, gets his unconventional yet wonderfully cool self into some trouble, usually down to some unscrupulous business thing or other, there’s a huge cliffhanger at the end of the first volume in each two volume story, and then the whole thing resolves, breathlessly fast, before Winch comes out of it all, the unconventional rich kid, cool as can be. But that ending comes next time, here we’re all about the setup, and oh boy, it’s some setup.
As for that Bond comparison – look at this gorgeous page from this volume where Largo enters the island base of the man he’s come to Hong Kong and China to do a deal with… pure Bond visual, absolutely gorgeous Francq artwork:
That’s even a perfect Bond villain lair isn’t it?
I always enjoy Francq’s artwork , but here it really seems to have exploded; maybe it’s the locations, maybe it’s something else, but the incredible art, the phenomenal details in each panel – this is truly a beautiful thing on the comic page.
Here’s another beautifully constructed page from Francq, as Winch attempts to escape from the island he finds himself on, the home of the Chinese businessman he’s come to do business with, and whose hospitality he’s been forced to rather walk roughshod over….
Interesting thing – either Van Hamme or Francq, or both gents, like quirky little cars for car chases. This is the second one this episode.
And just as Francq is on fire with the art, Van Hamme matches with the story; a perfect setup really, a little high financed business, a chance to get Winch out of the boardroom, a revisiting of Winch’s dubious past, and all topped up with the ethical dilemma keeping the character interesting – just how far would you go to keep your end of the deal?
The thing is, I know how these storylinees work, and I always, without fail, always, enjoy the first part more than the second part. There’s something about the brilliant execution of a well constructed setup that just gets me, even though I know I’m riding my way up a steep slope of enjoyment, about to reach, at the very best, a plateau of with the work, and at worst it’s a rollercoaster ride of disappointment on the way down towards the end of the adventure.
But with Largo Winch the setup is so good that even the slight hmmmmm of the second volume is immaterial. I always prefer to read these in twos, start, coffee break, then the finale. But hey, with Guardians Of The Tao I reckon I’ve got 70% plus of my total enjoyment in anyway. This just means that next time, when I receive the next volume The Way And The Virtue I’ll be able to go back to this volume and get the 100% from both volumes, meaning I actually get 170% for a couple of readings, a fine, fine deal.