The events of the previous book, The Trial, despite being in the national interest have left XIII himself on trial for crimes against the United States. The secret trial, orchestrated by the American intelligence community, was never going to be easy for XIII amd while he escapes custody, he ends up captured by former KGB agent Irina Svetlanova who, having lost an eye to XIII in a previous encounter, is in no mood to given him any help.
With the Mongoose dead, writer Jean Van Hamme has to introduce another lurking dangerous killer into the series and so brings the glamorous Irina, who readers have seen in previous books, to the fore. He also adds another American traitor to the cast in the form of NSA agent Jessica Martin and cannot resist the temptation for lesbian undertones in the relationship between the two women. Van Hamme gives this section of the story a James Bond feel, unusual for a XIII plot, by placing Irina in charge of a secret international killing organisation headquartered in a ocean-going ship. Yet for all the Bond styling for the middle of the book the last section of the book gets us back to what the series is best at with XIII on the run for his life.
The Irina/Jessica section of the story gives artist William Vance a brief chance to inject some of the female glamour that would be more common in Van Hamme’s Largo Winch books into XIII before getting back to the grim and gritty action that he has shown that he is so good in previous books in the series.
There are more details of the original French XIII albums on the official XIII website (in French).
You can read an interview with Cinebook publisher Olivier Cadic and XIII translator Jerome Saincantin on downthetubes at XIII Questions About XIII.
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