When a man is found – unconscious and bedraggled – on the shore of a tiny American coastal village, they rally together to help. Even when they find he’s suffered a suspicious-looking bullet wound to the head, they patch him up and look after him. When he comes round he can remember nothing of his past and carries no distinguishing features, except for a mysterious tattoo of the Roman numeral XIII located just below his collar.
He responds well to his treatment but is intrigued by his past. The trouble is, it seems his past is just as eager to catch up with him, and soon armed men are disturbing the peaceful tranquillity of the community that saved him.
So he heads to the city to search for reports of missing persons, which offers some clues to his identity but also brings news of his survival to the attention of various groups and factions, who seem to know more about XIII than he knows about himself. Ranging from the police to altogether less legal organisations, it seems like everyone wants to catch up with XIII.
This all serves as a thrill-laden introduction to an intriguing classic French thriller, originally published in 1984. The artwork has a European edge to it but the story has barely dated. If you like films like the Bourne series, this will certainly appeal – Lambiek.net’s Comicopedia goes as far as to suggest that the creators of XIII were influenced by Robert Ludlum’s novels. It’s fair to say that the central premise, if not the overall execution, is remarkably similar.
XIII is a classic Belgian comic and it’s great to see the series coming back into print in English. We’ve often bemoaned the lack of quality thrillers in graphic novel format and once again it’s the French translations of Cinebook filling the gap. Support its efforts to bring these high quality, intelligent genre comics to us – you shouldn’t be disappointed.