When Nerio Winch, one of the most powerful men on the planet, dies under suspicious circumstances, the question on everyone’s lips is “Who will take over Group W?” Winch’s multi-national corporation. True, there is an heir--twenty-six-year old Largo. Too bad he’s just been framed for murder and is rotting in a Turkish prison.
I’ve seen episodes of the TV adaption of Jean Van Hamme and Philippe Francq’s popular Belgian comic book series and been intrigued by its concept of a rebellious young hero fighting his own corporation to make it do the right thing. So, when Cinebook’s English translation came out, I was delighted to get my hands on the source material.
What quickly became apparent in this volume (more so than in the TV series) is that Largo Winch is a “manly romance.” Its heroes are bigger than life. Intelligent. Tough. Quick with fist, gun, and retort.
Women love them. And they love women. They’re loyal to their friends, deadly to their enemies. Idealistic. Shrewd. And they love their mothers.
The villains are smooth. Greedy. Ultimately cowardly.
And the women? Well, they’re always sexy. Sometimes smart. Sometimes stupid. But mostly just window dressing--at least in the two chapters collected in this volume.
I don’t have a problem with any of that in this kind of story. It’s a man’s fantasy world, and Van Hamme and Francq depict it well.
Largo receives the most character development here. There are several flashbacks that reveal how he came to be the man he is--in defiance of Nerio’s plans. His companion, Simon Ovronnaz, though important to the plot, is never much defined past the charming rogue label.
Van Hamme’s plot is tight. While the story careens all over the globe, from New York to Turkey to Yugoslavia to an Adriatic Island, the story line has a very specific destination in mind. And it reaches it in good time, without leaving any loose ends.
By the time page 96 is reached, readers know who murdered Nerio, who framed Largo, and (basically) who was behind every dastardly plot recounted on these pages. And it makes sense within the context of the world Van Hamme has created. There are no sudden surprise villains. The clues have been planted throughout the story.
The action never drags. Exposition scenes are intercut with those of Largo’s adventures in Turkey. Scenes of prisoners fighting over tennis shoes are intercut with those of men of finance fighting for control of Group W--emphasizing that it’s only the size of the prize that distinguishes these men from one another. The transitions are smooth. The reader is never confused about what’s going on.
Francq’s art is beautiful. His panels are small, tight, and highly detailed. He averages seven to eight panels a page, though he can go as high as twelve or as few as five. His layout is clear and easy to follow. There’s no sense of crowding.
This is an action-oriented book, and Francq does a good job of suggesting movement. The four-page car chase is a superb example. He varies the angles on the car, coming at it from behind, above, and beside. He jumps between the perspectives of viewers and participants.
However, what really makes the car chase scene work is the realism of the background. The bridge filled with traffic looks like something you’ve seen a thousand times on the news. It’s not photorealistic, but it has its own sense of reality. Also, the background and the foreground are treated as equally important. Francq doesn’t skimp on the details of one to make the other stand out. There’s almost a straight photographic look to it.
The colors are beautiful. The skies are a gorgeous blue, and the white that glints off the buildings really look like beams of sunlight reflecting off glass. The cool blues and indigoes of night contrasted with the yellows and white of light are especially nice.
Largo Winch is recommended for ages 15 and up, and while the publisher notes some illustrations have been modified (with the creators’ consent) so as not to upset sensitive readers, there is still some blood and tasteful nudity. The important thing to note about these scenes is that they are integral to the plot and help to reveal character. There’s nothing gratuitous about them.
Those looking for glamorous action and adventure really need to check out Largo Winch.
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