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Sunday, 21 June 2009

In Review: Lady S - Here's To Suzie!

Lady SIf you are looking at the cover and thinking that Lady S could to be a story along the lines of Modesty Blaise then you are not far off the mark. Like Modesty, Suzan Fitzroy has a complicated, and not entirely legal, back story which has brought her into contact with shadowy authorities who, in a contemporary setting, use her talents when the law needs to be bent.

When the parents of twelve year old Estonian Shania Rivkas are detained by the KGB, Shania’s mother gives her life to allow her daughter to escape. She finds sanctuary with a local thief, Anton Grivenko, who teaches her his trade and they eventually try to escape the dangers of the new Russia with Shania using the stolen passport of New Zealander Suzan McKenzie. In the West, some years later, she eventually meets an American diplomat, James Fitzroy, whom her father knew and who, in a nicely plotted section which completes the initially puzzling back-story, adopts her as his American daughter Suzan Fitzroy. The main plot however concerns the diplomatic and espionage concerns over a document stolen from the Turkish embassy in Brussels as the Turks attempt to cover up something that would impede their membership of the EU.

The Lady S series of bande dessinee albums written by Jean Van Hamme and illustrated by Philippe Aymond began in 2004 and have reached number 5 in France where they are published by Dupuis. In the UK, Cinebook have translated the first two albums, Na Zdorovié, Shaniouchka! and A Ta Santé, Suzie!, into English and published them as one book under the second album's cover and translated title of Here's To Suzie!, although the first album's Russian title means much the same with her Estonian name. Since the first album’s cover shows a KGB agent executing Suzan’s mother it has to be said that the second album’s cover, which shows her as a cat burglar, is a better representation of the contents and considerably more shop friendly for a UK and US market.

Van Hamme's plotting is fast and complex and the twists build as the story continues. While these were originally published in France as two separate albums the story runs seamlessly from the first to the second and, as with the Cinebook publication of Aldebaran, Lady S works better for having the two original albums published as one British book. Aymond's artwork is detailed and dynamic when it needs to be, with his colour palates differing between the contemporary western settings and the Russian flash-backs.

Considering that most European creators are not well known in the UK it would be nice to see Cinebook adding some basic information on both Jean Van Hamme and Philippe Aymond in the book, even if it was only the minimal amount that Rebellion put into their 2000AD reprint books. Van Hamme has many bande dessinee series to his credit including the newer Blake and Mortimer stories and XIII as well as two other series that Cinebook publish, Largo Winch and Thorgal, so it seems surprising that there isn’t some sort of bio which would point readers at these other Cinebook releases.

My only complaint would be a minor one. The book spells its female lead’s first name in the same way the original French script does, as Suzan. Since that name comes from a New Zealand passport one would expect that the name should have been translated to Susan in the English adaptation as it does look odd with a “z”.
However it does not detract from a well plotted and well drawn book. Lady S – Here’s To Suzie! is simply one of the best bande dessinees that I have read.

Buy Lady S Volume 1: Here's to Suzie! from amazon.co.ukBuy Lady S Volume 1: Here's to Suzie! from amazon.co.uk

• More details of Lady S can be found on the Cinebook website.

• More details of the original French books can be found on the Dupuis website

• More details of foreign language albums that have been published in English can be found on the Euro Comics translations website.

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