Writer Jean Van Hamme is a major name in the Franco-Belgian bandes dessinees world, indeed one could equate the success of his many graphic novel series and the films and TV series based on them with Alan Moore, so when Cinebook begins publishing the start of a new Jean Van Hamme series in English, a series that has never been translated before, it is a notable event. Wayne Shelton – The Mission introduces readers to the title character, a Vietnam veteran turned mercenary fixer, who has the knowledge and contacts to get things done, but only at a price.
The French division of a multinational company has negotiated mineral rights to an area in the former Soviet republic of Khalakjistan however the deal is in jeopardy after a French truck driver accidentally killed the general-in-chief of the Khalak armed forces. With the trucker, Rene Loriet, sentenced to 30 years in a Khalak prison, French and Khalak opinion turns against each other preventing the deal proceeding. Horace Quayle, reclusive head of the multinational, believes that the deal can proceed only if Loriet is freed from the prison and returned safely to France so he hires Wayne Shelton to organise this.
To do this Shelton builds a team including smuggler Sir Jonathan Bellingham, Khalak actor Vanko Bojadzik, motorcycle stuntman Juan, illusionist Honesty Goodness, brothel owner Jason McCormick and trucker Pierre Madrier, except Bellingham has upset a local warlord and is currently being held as his ‘guest’ until a ransom has been paid.
The Mission is basically a caper movie in the form of a graphic novel with all the hallmarks of one of Van Hamme’s modern series like XIII or Largo Winch – intrigue, foreign locales, beautiful women and lots of danger. With such a large cast to introduce and keep occupied, the story is densely written, not to the extreme of say an EP Jacob’s Blake and Mortimer, but the story is certainly relentless in conveying the amount of new information required for the reader. This is the first part of a two-part story so nothing is resolved as the book ends and readers will have to await The Betrayal in January 2014 for the conclusion of the story.
Christian Denayer is an artist new to Cinebook but has an impressive record of BD albums behind him. Despite a somewhat lacklustre cover to this book, his internal art is clear, detailed and accurate. As the only main female character, Denayer may draw Honesty Goodness as a little too curvy for her own good, what do you expect for a character with a name straight out of a James Bond film?
This book was originally published in French in 2001 and the series has reached the eleventh book in France made up of a mixture of single book and double book stories. It is also worth pointing out that while Jean Van Hamme is the creator of the series , he does not write all the books and many are from the pen of Thierry Cailleteau.
Wayne Shelton – The Mission is a solid start to this new series from Cinebook and, while in itself is nothing to write home about, it will be interesting to see just how it progresses.
There are more details of Wayne Shelton – The Mission at the Cinebook website.
The second book in the Wayne Shelton series, The Betrayal, is scheduled to be published by Cinebook in January 2014.
There are more details of the original French Wayne Shelton books at the Dargaud website (in French).
Cinebook will be appearing at Thought Bubble in Leeds over the weekend of 23/24 November 2014. Their sales table will be in the Royal Armouries Hall.