It is quite a while since Cinebook translated one of writer Mythic (Jean-Claude Smit-le-Bénédicte) and artist Youri Jigounov’s albums about CIA agent Alpha but they have returned to the series with Sanctions, originally published in France in 2000.
A Russian delegation is in Washington to discuss nuclear weapons that went missing during the break-up of the Soviet Union and CIA agents Alpha and Sheena Ferguson have been assigned to chaperone them. However at the same time former American spies are being assassinated, spies who all seen to have had a connection with a Soviet Cold War defector whose defection did not go as planned. Alpha must determine who the assassin is before the Russian delegation leaves the country and without unduly arousing their suspicions – assuming of course that one of the delegation is actually the assassin.
Alpha has now reached twelve French albums (with the title of the eleventh no doubt going to be a problem for Cinebook when they reach it) and there is a certain delicious irony that a series about an American CIA spy is actually illustrated by a Russian who was born in Moscow during the Cold War. Jigounov’s clear, clean artwork works well with the story as it deals with many different characters all similarly dressed in business attire and seemingly either attending meetings in offices or shopping.
The previous Alpha book The List was a fairly standard by-the-numbers spy chase across Europe that went from location to location with lots of action and little exposition, so this book and its relatively static who-dunnit plot is quite a change of pace from Mythic. He does throw in a potential red-herring for the reader that Alpha himself is unaware of but it is such an obvious red-herring that the reader is left wondering if it is they who are actually being duped by it. Despite this the plot weaves its complicated way around the various suspects leaving the reader satisfied with the outcome.
Amongst Cinebook’s various modern-day spy tales Alpha has been something of an also ran, slipping under the radar and off the publication lists as the juggernaut that was XIII rolled on. With the passing of the bi-monthly publication of new XIII books it will be interesting to see if the stronger plotting of Sanctions will give the series enough of a boost to return it to regular publication.
• There are more details of the English language Alpha books at the Cinebook website
• There are more details of the French language Alpha books at Le Lombard website
• The downthetubes review of Alpha: The List is here