1 January 2012

Lady S. by Van Hamme and Aymond

I have the Forbidden Planet International Blog to thank for introducing me to Lady S.

Their positive review for the latest volume to be published in English persuaded me to buy all three volumes as a Christmas treat for myself (I like to buy my own Christmas presents then I know that I'll get things that I like).

Lady S. tells the story of a young woman with an interesting history that includes being a refugee, petty criminal, diplomat's aide and agent for a shadowy anti-terrorist organisation.

The first English volume covers the first two Belgian volumes which first introduce Lady S. and then tell the story of her first mission.

Lady S.'s history reveals itself to be more complex and interwoven than we expected at first and this is nicely done through a succession of time-slips that show us that history in a series of self-contained episodes.

Here, early on in the story, Lady S. is at a reception with her diplomat father when an unexpected voice takes her back to her escape from Russian controlled Estonia.

This is also a typical example of the fluid artwork.

The layout is standard comic book with the page divided in to rectangles with gutters between the panels.

The panels are standard too with the scene almost always drawn from eye-level at medium distance. Occasionally the viewpoint is raised or lowered but not enough to change the feel of the story-telling.

The simplicity of the layouts and the panels makes the story flow quickly, which is just what you want from a thriller, but while the art takes second place to the words it still plays a big part in the fun and I love the feel of the snowscape and the way that it contrasts with the earlier scene.

In her first adventure Lady S. gets embroiled with a plot to expose Turkey's support for Georgian rebels. Of course it proves to be more complicated than that and the plot twists beautifully around double-agents and fake documents.

This is sophisticated and intelligent story-telling.

Volume 1 concludes with Lady S. gaining her moniker and accepting that she has no choice other than to join the secret organisation that has recruited her.

Volume 2 takes us to Stockholm and a audacious plan to kidnap the Nobel laureates. Again the plot twists and turns and people are not always who you think they are.

Lady S. gets fooled and falls for one of the false trails and only manages to recover the situation by recalling a chance remark from earlier.

It's another cracking story that runs so quickly that the plot curves blur as they sweep past you.

The final English volume (there are more in French) has Lady S. on the run when her past as a thief, a "hotel mouse", on the Cote d'Azur catches up with her.

As she runs from the CIA and the local police she is aided by the organisation that she is working for, the Centre for Anti-Terrorism Research and Intelligence Gathering (CATRIG), and in doing so we learn more about them and their purpose.

I read all three volumes in a single sitting and was totally captivated by the pace, flow and twists of the story.

Lady S. is quickly developed as a believable character who has a reason for being where and what she is with skills honed as a refugee on the run and living on her wits as a thief.

There are no special gadgets (e.g. James Bond or Mission Impossible) and no exceptional talents (e.g. Bourne or the Saint). She is just a bright girl who knows how to play tricks.

I am sure that Cinebook will be doing English versions of the other volumes before too long and I'll be buying them.

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