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Monday, 5 September 2011

In Review: XIII - Thirteen To One

Who is XIII?

Book 1 - Mr Alan Smith?
Books 2&3 - Captain Steve Rowland?
Book 4 - Corporal Ross Tanner?
Book 5 - Agent Jason Fly?
Books 6&7 - Writer John Fleming?

After the linked stories of the first five books and the two part Jason Fly story of the sixth and seventh books, in the eighth XIII book, Thirteen To One, writer Jean Van Hamme and artist William Vance return to a theme familiar to fans of The Prisoner, who is Number One?

It has been two months since the events of The Night Of August Third, and two years since the beginning of the series, and number XIII turns his attention back to finding out just who number I is. With Major Jones angered that he wants to find Captain Steve Rowland's wife, Kim, who is also number XVII, XIII uses his ultimate contact, the President of the United States, to get the authority and information that he needs. In the meantime the Mongoose, the assassin who has been trying to kill XIII, escapes from prison and continues his hunt.

For all the fact that this is a single book story, it requires so much knowledge of the XIII back story that it would make no sense to anyone jumping into the series at this point. That said Van Hamme rewards the readers that have stuck with the series by giving them an intriguing plot with Presidential and Secret Service involvement along with an illegitimate child that the series must surely return to at some point in the future. Meanwhile Jones, despite all her apparent huffiness at the beginning, has to depend on XIII as he makes the ultimate choice between her and Kim Rowland.

On the art front Vance is obviously enjoying himself as both the Secret Service agent and Jones herself get red sports cars to drive around in, while the climactic sequences along America's north eastern coast give him plenty of scope for beaches, islands and luxury yachts.

XIII - Thirteen To One almost reads like a thank-you from its creators to the French readers who, when it was originally published in 1991, had stuck with the series for seven years. Fortunately for us it has only taken Cinebook just over one year to get this far and they continue to forge ahead with XIII at one book every other month. Despite this schedule, and the possibility of getting complacent with it, XIII continues to be a series that doesn't disappoint.

• There are more details of the English language XIII books on Cinebook's website.

• There are more details of the original French XIII albums on the official XIII
website (in French).

• You can read an interview with Cinebook publisher Olivier Cadic and XIII translator Jerome Saincantin on downthetubes at XIII Questions About XIII.

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