The Largo Winch graphic album series by Jean Van Hamme and Phillippe Francq is a wonderful, thrill-packed adventure of a read, part boardroom and corporate intrigue, part full-on Bond / Bourne action-packed thriller. But with the latest two albums, things have changed – Francq is still there as artist, but we have a new writer in Eric Giacometti. I unashamedly adore Largo Winch as the wonderful escapist nonsense (but brilliant constructed and beautifully done nonsense) it is, so how will I, a total fan, get on with these first Van Hamme-less volumes? (Answer – pretty darned good!)
Effectively, everything you need to know about Largo Winch is there in the quote on the back cover –
No family, no connections, anti-establishment, womanizer, wanderer, iconoclast and fighter, he inherits at age 26 the W Group, which is worth $10 billion.
Basically, Largo Winch is James Bond with a boardroom, and it’s a series I’ve loved since reading the very first Cinebook volume.
However, big changes have happened with these two most recent volumes. They might be a thematic continuation of Van Hamme’s last two volumes, but there’s a new name on the cover, Eric Giacometti, a French thriller writer brought in by Philippe Francq when Jean Van Hamme decided to quit writing the Largo Winch series. As for the reasons for Van Hamme’s leaving, it seems like a classic artistic differences thing, Van Hamme having issues with Francq – “It’s hard for me to continue to get along with people who are a bit too full of themselves… This collaboration didn’t amuse me anymore,” (Le Monde). Whereas Francq’s point is that, although he has no animosity towards Van Hamme, he saw it as, “a son getting some criticism from his father,” claiming that he had become the leading creative force on the book (Le Figaro).
But, as I’ll show you, it’s very much a case of ‘plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose,’ with Giacometti & Francq’s Largo and Van Hamme & Francq’s Largo having the same, familiar, wonderfully formulaic feel.
Each adventure is presented across two volumes, pretty much always following something of the same formula – Book 1 is always the setup, usually starting with that James Bond pre-titles bit of action to set the adventure off and running.
After that we see Largo and the Winch group getting dragged into some threat or other, all explained carefully, lots of boardroom stuff, lots of talking heads. Just like this in Morning Star…
And just like Bond, there’s usually a beautiful woman involved somewhere. A little like this from Morning Star.
And then it all kicks off in some way, with wonderfully unconventional and anti-establishment Largo just breezing ahead, ignoring the threats, the violence, the deaths, the huge hazards, the potential loss of fortune and simply blazes his own trail. Which inevitably means he pisses off the wrong people in authority and things go from bad to worse, all leading to the inevitable Book 1 cliffhanger.
A little like this from Morning Star…
Which brings us to Book 2, the part where Largo makes a run for it, goes underground, has to rely on his network of similarly unconventional and anti-establishment trusted friends to help him with the threat. There’s more action, exotic locales, chases, threats, resolutions, twists, conflicts and eventually, everything settles back to the status quo, just in time for the next adventure. Which is where we get this sort of thing in Scarlet Sails.
And c’mon, that’s a great James Bond gag.
So yes, it’s formulaic, there’s no denying that – but that’s rather the whole point of it. It’s part of the fun. In fact, more and more, it IS the fun, not the actual formula, but the manner in which Van Hamme and Francq continually made it read and look absolutely wonderful. And the fact that I could easily pick examples from both Morning Star and Scarlet Sails just shows you how easily that formula continues with a new writer.
So absolutely, Eric Giacometti delivers a classic sort of Largo Winch script and, of course, the artwork from Philippe Francq is just as wonderful as ever it was.
Everything hinges on events from the last two Largo books by Van Hamme, Crossing Paths and 20 Seconds, which saw Largo and the W Group threatened and events manipulated (as usual). But even though he got out of that one, the true identity of the mastermind behind it all was never revealed.
And frankly, the transition here from Van Hamme to Giacometti is almost seamless. The same formulaic feel of the flow of the storyline, the same sort of tone, same action sequences – it’s definitely a Largo Winch book. The first volume in particular really does a wonderful job, adding intrigue after intrigue, throwing in enough action in-between the talking heads to break things up, and setting everything up for a blistering second-part.
The only real complaint I have is that the second volume tries just a little too hard to add twist upon twist upon twist. And it could possibly have done with simplifying things just a little and letting the story breathe. It’s perhaps revealing that we didn’t seem to have Francq doing a big widescreen moment here, no huge chase scene or big action sequence – it seemed that there was just that little too much plot to be fitted in.
But, that’s a minor thing. Let’s make it clear – this is a cracking Largo Winch adventure that takes everything from what has gone before and just runs with it. We get a lesson in modern finance, high-frequency trading, complicated boardroom debates, betrayals and intrigues, multiple villains, complex allegiances, anti-globalisation movements, plus the questions Largo must answer when it comes to Largo’s own activities and how it fits in with the man’s morality.
Largo Winch continues, even with a new writer, to be one of those books that I look forward to. It’s a perfect page-turning thriller of a read, full of grand action yet also capable of delivering intriguing details and backgrounds to the whole financial and corporate world in which we’re enmeshed. After all, there’s not too many action thriller graphic novel series that could spawn a book explaining modern-day finances, yet Largo Winch has managed just that with ‘Largo Winch – Introduction to Finance‘, something only in French right now, but fingers crossed we see that one translated by Cinebook as well!
Largo Winch Volume 17 & 18, Morning Star & Scarlet Sails, by Philippe Francq and Eric Giacometti, translation by Jerome Saincantin, published by Cinebook.