West Land | Price: INR 350 | Two-Volume Books | Color | Pages: 48+48 | Size: B5 | Laminated/HardCover
I am back with another set of CineBook reviews, which were part of the back-issues set distributed by Westland this year in India. The topic of discussion for this post, is about the two new series, which were never published so far in India.
First up the order, is Largo Winch, which is a Belgian Comic series created by the legendary comic creator Jean Van Hamme, who is credited with works like Thorgal and XIII (a series slated to be the Lion Comics Jumbo Special). As usual, let's look at the background of the creators before we zoom in to this series.
|Largo Winch 1: The Heir |
|Largo Winch 1: The W Group (Vol.2) |
Published: Mar 2008
Just like his works, Jean Van Hamme (Born 1939 in Brussels), need no introduction, as he is often remarked as the Master of Comics Field. But, can you believe that Hamme wasn't destined to be in this profession initially? His initial career was on the Marketing field, but had the interest to write few comic stories in between starting from 1968. As with other Brussels school writer/artists, Van Hamme eventually joined TinTin magazine in 1970, and started writing regular series. Slowly he found his real interest in the comics biz, and left his marketing career to concentrate full time on comics writing in 1976.
The Creation of Thorgal in 1977, was Van Hamme's first super hit. In 1984, Van Hamme scored another big hit with his XIII series. The South Indian Comic fans don't need any introduction for this series, which garnered huge attention towards the all work of Hamme. But what many don't know is that the Largo Winch character was thought by Van Hamme even before his first hit series, Thorgal.
As early as in the late 1970's, Hamme started creating a series of novels with the lead character named as Largo Winch. But the abysmal sales and his other prominent work on Thorgal and XIII, pushed this to back-burner.
But, when Hamme, met Belgian artist Philippe Francq in 1988, Largo Winch was re-born in Graphic Novel format, and first series debuted on 1990, through publisher Dupius.
The series was about a young carefree guy, who suddenly inherits amazing fortunes through a long lost relation, and his subsequent fight to reclaim the empire left behind, in the process battling through all forms of defiance.
Phillippe Francq's earlier stint at Hergé Studios, where he had a chance to collaborate with the likes of Bob De Groot (Clifton) and Bob De Moor, gave him an uncanny style of artwork, in expressing the moods and feelings with vibrant colors in an unique artistic style (See an example in the panel below, where the breathtaking scenario is expressed in a way in which the main character's importance is not spoilt). These qualities coupled wtih Van Hamme's own intriguing plots, helped Largo Winch, become a huge success, paving way for a "Hat-Trick of Super Hits" from Hamme's stable.
The success of series has made Francq concentrate solely on this venture, and currently the duo are on a release rate of one album per year. So far, 16 albums have been released as of date. It is said that the initial sales per album in French alone were around 600,000 copies each. With CineBook's English translations they are only going to be made more famous.
As in the case of CineBook releases, this is also a two-volume edition, and perfectly fits the bill on this occasion. Because Largo Winch stories are told over two volumes each, where the first one being the one putting Largo in an impossible situation, and the second one letting him get out of it. In addition, both volumes share the same background colour on the cover (as pointed out in Dr.Satish's blog too). Isn't this a cool new idea to be utilised in the Graphic Novel Biz ? Hope other comic players take note of it.
The two volumes in CineBook's first Largo Winch edition are:
1. The Heir (Originally published in French as "L'Héritier", in Nov 1990)
2. The W Group (Originally published in French as "Le Groupe W", in Sep 1991)
The plot starts with an introduction of Nerio Winch, chief patron of the business empire W Group, in his last days. He wants to find a successor, and knowing that he has a secret adopted son, he is brutally killed by his own allies.
Now, the focus shifts on Largo Winczlav, who suddenly is identified as the successor. A mad hunt is on with assassins trying to kill him, and the plot unravels at the second volume, where he goes through betrayal, treachery, with a final showdown set in an uninhabited island. Francq's artwork does all the talking, and Hamme introduces preludes and twists in the plot as and when necessary. Overall, a comics extravaganza, which you should not miss from grabbing.
Cinebook's tradition of editing the sexual interludes, for its targeted audience of English speaking countries, is shown in this release too. There are some forums, where the angry purists are against this effort, as they believe it as tampering with the originality of the series. Well, different people, different perceptions. It should be said that the editing, does blend well with our culture, so there are no qualms.
Cinebook have also released the second album of Largo Winch in UK, titled TakeOver Bid, which encompasses the original albums 3 and 4, in one book. Blue is the theme for the covers this time around. I was told that they would be available in India with the next batch of CineBook early next year.
Lover of Dreams Shankar had pointed out in his post about a Largo Winch movie in production in French language. I am eager to hear his review comments, once he watches the new venture. Hopefully, the movie franchise will live up to the expectation set by the Graphic Novels.
The next new series from CineBook is from an relatively unknown Franco-Belgian duo of Stephen Desberg (scenario) and Bernard Vrancken (artist). The series is titled "I.R.$", which refers to the all powerful tax collection office of United States, the Internal Revenue Service (an actual organisation in US). The federal law states that the agency is empowered to collect taxes, and enforce the revenue laws within US. Taking a tab out of this little known agency to the outer world, Desberg and Vrancken thought about a character, who would do a federal agent kind of a role, with the key emphasize being on the Taxing irregularities. It's a whole new setting which let's the creative duo to break new ground on the Graphic Novels.
Stephen Desberg, born 1954 in Belgium, initially worked for TinTin and Spirou magazines assisting in their script-work. While at Spirou, he got a chance to work with the legendary creator Maurice Tillieux, who is the author of Gil Jourdan, a Belgian Detective Comic series, considered as an Masterpiece of European genre. Tillieux also has done some uncredited work on Yoko Tsuno (a series covered in Comicology earlier).
|I.R.$. 1: Taxing Trails |
|I.R.$. 1: The Hagen Strategy (Vol.2) |
InnerCover | Published: Apr 2008
Working with Tilleux gave Desberg, his first experience of managing a character plot, and he soon went on to create many series of his own, finally bumping with Bernard Vrancken (Born 1965 in Belgium) in 1996. Initially they worked together for some short stories, before they started the political-financial thriller series 'I.R.$.' in 1999. The series centres around Larry B. Max, a fictional IRS secret agent, who is considered to be a specialist on Taxing. (Much like, our IT Officers portrayed in Indian Movies, who are normally shown raiding the Big B's :)).
As it is highlighted in the character biography, "Reading Tax-evasion and Money-launderings rings like a virtuoso pianist would read a sheet of Mozart". Larry Max, Armed with a License to Kill and Thrill, like James Bond; Desberg and Vrancken take us to different themes of irregularities surrounding the Big Shots, through the adventures ranging all over the world.
In this CineBook release, we have two inter-connected volumes:
In this first album, Max must look into a particularly delicate file belonging to a rich Jewish-American, Moshe Geldhof, known for his involvement in recovering items that were confiscated by the Nazis. Dissecting this billionaire's accounts, Max embarks on a dangerous journey to find the mysterious origins of the man's immense fortune.
2. The Hagen Strategy (Originally published in French as "La Stratégie Hagen", in Mar 2000)
In this second album, Max continues to explore the billionaire's origin by visiting the Swiss Banks, to unravel the mystery behind the assassination of the former employee of the Union of Banks.
In German mythology, Hagen embodies the traitor. One who infiltrates the ranks of his enemies to destroy them better. This idea has been incorporated very well in these two albums, as Max unravels the mystery and the black secrets behind the Nazi war and its cold after-effects.
On final call, I would rate this attempt by Desberg and Vrancken as fresh and new. But it fails on some account, as the plot seems to be dragged in certain sections. A silent and moot agent, who has some secret mobile conversation with a call-girl to open up his mind, as portrayed by Max, may not get that well with a larger audience, who expect the lead character to be more dynamic in nature.
Eventhough, Vrancken tried his artistic hand to show Max in better light with acrobatic skills in action sequences, and romantic interludes with the leading ladies (in line with CineBook's Sexual edit policy), it need to be admitted that the art style he followed doesn't boast well to the already suffering series with a dry subject of taxing.
Nevertheless, the authors have continued to publish this series so far, with the latest original French album #10 getting released in Mar 2008. A clear sign that there is a fan following for this relatively unknown series. Look at the covers of the remaining issues, released by Le Lombard.
On their part, CineBook have planned to release their next two-volume edition of IR$, in Jan 2009, which will combine the original volumes 3 & 4.
Hopefully, they will be better than the first two albums, to put some spice to the series.
With tax bells ringing over head, as we approach the financial year end, this might be a good series for you to get acclaimed on (no pun intended). If you want to experience a different plot-work from the regular cop-catch-convict issues, grab the copy at your nearest store, before it runs out of stock.
Whatever be the case of the artist, the scenarist Stephen Desberg is going great guns with his another adventure "The Scorpion", an historic-adventure series, filled with incredible artwork of Marini. CineBook have started releasing this series also in UK with English translations, and I am looking forward for their debut in India.