Filed under: Comic Reviews | Tags: AMSTERDAM, CINEBOOK, EUROPEAN, FRANCOBELGIAN, FRANKMILLER, VANCE, VANHAMME, XIII
Friends and stalkers will be aware of my fondness for winter trips to both Belgium and Amsterdam. My favourite comic shop in Amsterdam is Go Joker. The proprietor has an excellent working knowledge of both Swampy and the Blue Beetle which makes for a very pleasant experience. In Bruges I like to visit De Striep and am always in awe at the huge volumes of comics that are in languages I can’t read. They seem to cover every available genre and every second comic isn’t Tintin. Honest.
Feeling incredibly left out and actually quite ignorant, my last visit saw me sufficiently intrigued to both overcome the fear and attempt to get to grips with the myriad of European titles. The helpful Belgian fellow in De Striep guided me gently to the aisle marked ‘IGNORANT GLASWEGIAN GIRLS’, clarified that I did not pay nearly as much attention in Standard Grade French as I should have, and set about explaining the books. All of which were published by Cinebook Ltd.
Deciding resolutely that never again shall I travel hundreds of miles by boat to buy comics by a British publisher, I went to see the charming folks at Cinebook while I was at Thought Bubble, to learn more about them and their titles. Anyone who wants to make quality European comic books available in English and purchasable in the UK at nice prices is a good egg in my book and one of their best selling titles, XIII is no different.
I’m reviewing this comic straight. I am resisting the urge to look it up online to find out more about it. I am assuming, and I might be wrong so feel free to correct me, that most readers of Comics Anonymous are a bit like me. They might have a Marvel/ DC bias, a working knowledge of their local small press scene and a love of finding new comics to love. In other words, I was slightly afraid of ‘Intellectual European Graphic Novels’ and more afraid of my ignorance making me look daft. I’ve taken the heat for you all here and I assure, these waters are safe to dive into.
The first of many volumes of XIII was originally published in French in 1984. Cinebook published this edition in 2010. If it took 26 years for a comic book of this quality to be published in the worlds most spoken language I am astonished. I can only assume the English speaking comic book community is more resistant to stories of people without capes than I would like to think.
XIII is the story of one man who is washed up on a beach, near death and without memory or recollection nor claim to his identity save a few cryptic clues. One of my main concerns for a translated comic was the dialogue but nothing feels stilted or ‘lost in translation’. Remembering that the book was also originally released in the mid 80s also helps with context.
An incredibly comfortable book to read, XIII reminded me a lot of The Broons in its layout within panels and general art direction. A variety of perspectives are used which keeps the pages fresh and matches the pace of the story well, driving forward both action and atmosphere when required.
Our hero XIII himself, is a little cliched in that he appears to be the perfect alpha male, despite of course his amnesia. Women he counters swoon at his feet and he does seem to get the better of most of his male adversaries. The story however, is as if straight from a top Hollywood thriller and is similar in some ways to the Jason Bourne movies. Volume 1 is the beginning of a great mystery with plenty of action that is at times genuinely thrilling. One man against the world with nothing but his wits and some vague clues to help him.
Hopefully this review has piqued your interest in trying out something new. I’d particularly recommend it to Frank Miller fans, and general Bat-Fans. More to come from the Cinebook stable here at Comics Anonymous soon.
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