By Jean Van Hamme and Jean Giraud
Little by little, XIII has reconstructed most of his life and figured out who he is. With one exception: There is still a gap in his college years, when Jason McLane became Kelly Brian. A gap that may mean the amnesiac adventurer is in fact an Irish terrorist, Seamus O’Neil. This flashback brings us back to Boulder, Colorado, and before that to Northern Ireland, to reveal the last piece of the XIII puzzle, and his final identity.
So, here we are, Volume 17 of the 18 in this very twisty and very turny serial from Van Hamme and Vance (well, Van Hamme and Giraud this time round, but more on that momentarily).
Now, before I begin, if anyone reading this hasn’t been following along… for God’s sake don’t bloody start now. Seriously, go back and get the first few volumes, get hooked, and devour the rest. You’ll thank me for it.
This really is one that needs you to start from the very beginning to best appreciate the flow of the story, the wonderfully over the top complexities of Van Hamme’s storyline of the man washed ashore, many volumes ago, a bullet hole in his head, XIII tattooed on his shoulder blade, and not a single memory of who he is. (Yes, it is ‘inspired by’ the Bourne Identity. But twistier and turnier).
There’s so much you’ve missed; presidential plots, a potential coup d’etat, explosions, chases, more identities than you can imagine, flight across a good portion of the world, and much much more besides. It’s Bourne Identity but turned up to 13 or more. Or at least it was to start with. And it’s this subtle and interesting shift in the series that has made it worth staying with.
I only really noticed with a partial re-read just before getting into this volume (I’m intending for a full re-read before the final volume in March) that the action adventure stuff sort of drifts away after the first few volumes. Sure, there’s always elements of it, such as the daring escape shown on the cover and below, along with the glamorous women who always seem to cross XIII’s path, but quite often the action is over and done with very quickly, and we’re plunged once more into something very plot-heavy, intrigue emphasised over action. It’s not a problem, it’s actually one of the series’ greatest strengths and possibly the thing that’s kept it working all this time.
Anyway, this volume is most definitely an interlude, a flashback to reveal the one piece of the XIII puzzle left. Van Hamme addresses the one remaining gap in XIII’s memory, the troublesome prospect of XIII possibly being an Irish terrorist.
Yeah, we all know it wont turn out that way, but dammit, here just as it’s been the whole way through it’s not the mystery that really interests, it’s the journey from here to there that matters. So as it is, this flashback, told by young Seamus O’Neil to an as yet un-named young man, is a very stylised portrayal of certain bits of the Irish ‘Troubles’ followed by the adventures of a wanted IRA man in the USA, under the very watchful eye of the C.I.A., including a certain Frank Giordino, proving his interest in the XIII case is a very, very long standing affair.
And of course, this being XIII, there’s a femme fatale involved as well.
Which brings us to the artist this time round; one Jean Giraud, perhaps better known as Moebius. I’ve no idea why Moebius was drafted in for this volume – I imagine it was a stylistic choice rather than a necessary one. Part of me even feels I’m betraying Vance by enjoying Moebius’ work here so much, but hey, it’s Moebius, I’m sure Vance can understand.
And wow, that’s just a gorgeous profile, two gorgeous profiles actually.
Anyway, what we have here is a fine, fine volume in this wonderful series. It’s almost sedate, perfectly plotted and paced, a complete life in between the covers. Just not the life you may have been expecting. As always Van Hamme twists and turns once more. One volume to go, surely that will be a quiet goodbye?
Obviously here is not the place to start, but thanks to Cinebook and their continued commitment to the series, you get a chance to start from volume 1, just like you should.