After the revelations of the second book, the third slows down the pace a little. There are no new characters of any key significance and the revelations about XIII’s identity don’t digress too far from the previous episodes.
Instead we get a set-piece of thriller fiction, as XIII finds himself confined to a maximum security prison. Escape is essential; the alternative is to spend the rest of his life rotting in sweltering jail, amid basket-weaving lunatics, dropping in and out of solitary confinement.
With this relatively straightforward and familiar jailbreak scenario, Van Hamme isn’t asking too much of his readers, but it’s a welcome change of pace. The atmosphere is intense and claustrophobic, and there’s still plenty of action and subterfuge, as the plot is kept on a rolling boil in the background. But after the necessary complexity of the plot in first two volumes, this less sophisticated interlude makes for a refreshing break.