By Jean Van Hamme and William Vance.
Volume 18 of XIII, and it’s the finale, the final round, the one where Van Hamme and Vance dot all those I’s and cross all the T’s for their amnesiac leading man of mystery whose adventures we’ve been enjoying for quite a while now.
Van Hamme and Vance’s serial may well have taken Ludlum’s Bourne story as its basis, the whole amnesiac hero fighting to stay alive long enough to reclaim his memory and his past, but they went far, far beyond the small confines of Bourne and really created something epic, something impressive, something truly thrilling.
(Right back to the start – XIII meets the mysterious Colonel Amos – from Volume 1)
It all starts with a man washing ashore, bullet hole in his head, memory vanished, and a XIII tattoo on his shoulder. He may have had no idea who he was but he soon discovered that a lot of very dangerous people seemed to want to talk to him about his past. Over the volumes, as each layer of his identity is revealed, the mystery gets more complex, more conspiratorial, and XIII’s life takes in presidential assassination, secret societies, military coups, foreign lands, forgotten family members, and so much more.
With each and every volume Van Hamme seemingly delights in putting both his hero and his readership through as many hoops and almost as many identities as he can imagine, and even though there have been times all the way through the series where I’ve felt Van Hamme really pushed the twistyness too far, his sheer determination to keep delivering the action, the sense that he was actually relishing some of the rather ridiculous things he put XIII through just couldn’t help but win me over.
Hell, at one point in here I reckon Van Hamme tipped the wink to his audience about the series….
But in some ways it’s the eagerness and the ridiculous luck that makes everything work. Well, that and the action, the pace, the intricate plots, the complex conspiracies, Van Hamme’s writing and Vance’s artwork.
There’s actually a wonderful sense of comfort and familiarity about XIII, after all there’s nothing wrong with having a classic tale with repeating elements presented by a writer clearly loving what he’s doing and an artist matching him every step of the way.
I’ve been here from the beginning, as Cinebook finally promised to do what no other English language publisher had managed thus far, to bring the whole thing to print. And here we are, promise fulfilled, finale reached, saga complete, and XIII knows everything Van Hamme wants him to know. And in case you’re interested in seeing all of what I had to think of the 17 – here they are.
As for this final volume, there’s honestly not all that much to say at this point. XIII and his group head back to the States to face the music, although having a couple of books released that recount all the dirty secrets of the XX Conspiracy and revealing the full details of XIII’s life certainly help matters (convenient that eh?). But the dangers aren’t quite done with yet, and enemies seem to come out of the woodwork. But I’m hardly going to give away all the secrets at this point, and after all this time I’m pretty much fixed in my views and they’re unlikely to be changed greatly by the last 5% or so of the tale.
Nope, this is the ending we all thought we’d be getting, everything carefully wrapped up, Van Hamme neatly resolved by Van Hamme, and beautifully drawn by Vance. Truth be told, it’s not that spectacular an ending, but it was never going to be; this is the wrap-up, the tieing it all together. Creating a storyline so complex and rangy that we needed a wrapping it all up volume is what made, makes XIII such a great read.
18 volumes, brilliant action, breathtaking artwork, audacious storytelling. XIII was a sheer pleasure to read. Now I’ll get to do it all over again. It’s been wonderful.