“H” & “Dutch Connection”
Within a panel of being introduced to Largo Winch, the Baroness Vandenberg announces, “I have a really strong urge to sleep with you.”
Eat your heart out Bruce Wayne. Alas, before the young multi-billionaire can convince her to give in to her urges, the head of one of his associates is delivered to him--on a silver platter no less--and Largo is catapulted into a new adventure involving heroin smuggling, betrayal, and police corruption. Oh, and beautiful, deadly women.
Largo Winch is wish-fulfillment fantasy, but it’s good wish-fulfillment fantasy. Writer Jean Van Hamme uses specific details--such as historical facts, real places, and even discussions of tax codes-- to ground the story in an identifiable reality that helps readers accept the more credulity straining bits (and give them hope that they, too, could have a glamorous life like this “if only”).
The plot manages to twist and turn without being overly complicated.
Someone within the company is using Group W holdings to smuggle heroin. When Largo tumbles to it, he’s framed for the murder of two policemen and is forced to go on the run while trying to figure out which one of his department heads is behind the scheme.
Because the two chapters in this volume, “H” and “Dutch Connection,” were originally published as two separate books, there’s a recap of the “Story So Far” at the beginning of the second chapter. However, Van Hamme integrates it into the narrative so well that it doesn’t come across as too artificial.
Pacing is very important in this particular volume as we essentially have a lot of talking heads discussing what each plot twist means as they plan their next moves and countermoves. Fortunately, Van Hamme is a master at keeping the momentum going and holding the reader’s attention.
Drier boardroom scenes are leavened with gunfights, street chases, car chases, and scenes of scantily clad women. One of the more interesting sequences features Simon, Largo’s best friend and confidante, visiting the red light district of Amsterdam and being kidnapped. Gotta love the get-away vehicle.
The book’s real strength is the characters of Largo and Simon. Largo is a compelling man who should appeal to anyone who enjoyed Daniel Craig’s interpretation of James Bond. He’s a man of action--as he says, “I refuse to accept blind destiny. Luck comes and goes. You have to seize it. . . . But I will never, never sit at the side of the road showing my wounds and shouting ‘It’s destiny.’”
And he doesn’t. Largo has his own code, which isn’t necessarily in agreement with civilization’s laws. He does what he feels is necessary to protect his own--and, while he’s capable of kindness, he has an unsettling streak of ruthlessness that’s fascinating to observe.
At first, Simon comes across almost as a comic relief character--a happy-go-lucky womanizer, who has a quip for every occasion. However, as we see him in action, we realize that Van Hamme has created a character who’s just as ruthless as Largo, but with fewer scruples.
Philippe Francq manages to put a lot of detail into his backgrounds and characters without making the panel or page feel crowded, which is no mean feat when each page has an average of seven to eight panels. He does some absolutely beautiful cityscapes that can give you the sense that you’re actually walking the streets of these European cities.
As for his depictions of the characters, Francq doesn’t put them in “heroic” or unnatural poses. They have a natural “slump” and move like real people. They might look like they all come from Central Casting--they’re that pretty--but they don’t look like each other. There’s a nice variety in height and body type.
The action scenes are very fluid and easy to follow (because Francq is satisfied with showing one major action per panel). Also, the smaller-sized panels condense the action while giving the impression of movement and speed as small panel follows small panel.
Readers who enjoy action-adventure-thrillers should definitely check out this book.
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