In Review: Lady S – Portuguese Medley

Lady S Graphic Novel Volume 5 Portuguese Medley

Writer Jean Van Hamme and artist Philippe Aymond’s Lady S has moved from being Suzan in America to being Shania in France and is about to head south from there in the latest of her books to be translated into English by Cinebook, Portuguese Medley.

In the previous book, A Mole In DC, Suzan Fitzroy was revealed as living in the US under a fake name and passport and so was deported to France. There, under her real Estonian name of Shania Rivkas, she is working as a translator in the European Parliament in Strasbourg and sharing a flat with Kadija, an Arab girl whose boyfriend Mohcine and his friend Farik are not quite what they seem – but then neither is Lady S.

Farik is actually the second in command of an Al-Quaeda affiliated group and, spooked when police enter the bar that they are in, hides a CD-ROM detailing the group’s next operation in Shania’s handbag. However before he or Mochine can retrieve it, Shania is spirited off to Lisbon by the CIA to the American embassy there where a bio-geneticist has appeared claiming to be Abel Rivkas, her father.

Lady S 5 001
I have always thought of Lady S as Jean Van Hamme’s most down to earth title, especially in comparison to XIII’s intense action or Largo Winch’s expensive glamour, with Suzan/Shania just wanting to get on with living a quiet life. Yet here is a Lady S cover with our heroine climbing the outside of a tall building in her underwear. While I could defend this by pointing out that in a prior life she was a cat-burglar and that it represents only four panels out of 44 pages of artwork, it has to be said that the book reads as if her exit strategy from that particular situation was only put into the story so that it could be used as a titillating cover image. It is certainly a cover that is atypical of the series as a whole and unrepresentative of the book’s story.

Originally serialised in the weekly Spirou comic magazine between issues 3729 and 3734 in 2009 as Salade Portugaise, this story brings the Lady S books bang up to date with Islamist terrorists planning a major attack on the West while delving into the main character’s back story with the reappearance of her presumed dead father. Be it the day-to-day humdrum of working and dating, the touching reunion between Shania and her father, or the chaos of the terrorist/CIA chase through the Lisbon streets, Jean Van Hamme handles the story with his usual aplomb.

Lady S 5 002

Philippe Aymond’s artwork remains as neat and clear as in the previous books and despite Shania’s semi-naked antics on the side of that building it maintains the realism that I like. The scenes with her father stand out for their simplicity amongst the more manic scenes of gunfights and car chases along Portuguese streets, yet Aymond handles both well.

After the relatively talky previous book, Lady S – Portuguese Medley brings the action back into this series as well as re-establishing the roots of the main character and, despite the cover, this series remains one of my favourites from Cinebook.

• There are more details of all the English language Lady S books on the Cinebook website

• The downthetubes reviews of the previous Lady S titles are listed below –

• There are more details of all the French Lady S books on the Dupuis website (in English)

• There are more Lady S images, as well as preparatory sketches for the books, on Philippe Aymond’s blog (including a send-up of the scene behind that cover)

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