By Franq and Van Hamme
If anybody had told me I was soon to be gripped by a comic series about big business I'd have laughed in their face, but sure enough, here I am at the end of volume two of Largo Winch and itching to pick up volume three.
The enormous W Group is a victim of its own success and needs to continue growing, so when an opportunity for a hostile takeover bid presents itself Largo finds himself being pushed to take advantage of it. However, Largo's instincts tell him it's all too easy, but his heads of division dismiss his concerns and he finds himself not just along for the ride but the central pillar in the bid.
Now that on its own doesn't sound like a tantalising rip-roarer of an adventure, but when you add in mysterious deaths by a supposed Eco-warrior, a gold-digging ex-actress, subterfuge, tax evasion, a Libyan conspiracy, well, you start to get the idea.
Like the best of Van Hamme's writing, this is a highly detailed thriller, skilfully crafted to weave the world of commerce and finance with the blunt and brutal business of espionage, murder and greed. You can't make up your mind whether Largo's out of his depth or in the best position to find a way out the mess. It's certainly not a predictable read.
Really can't rate this highly enough. Read it.
And if you liked that: Then you should be reading XIII too.
Largo Winch Vol.2: Takeover Bid: Takeover Bid v. 2 (Book)
By Francq and Van Hamme
With Largo Winch, Van Hamme has notched up yet another highly successful and inventive series to go with the likes of XIII and Thorgal. This time he's tackling the world of big business and, in these current times where boardrooms and executive practices are under the microscope, you can't help but read some segments with a wry smile.
The book starts with the death of Nerio Winch, a majority shareholder to an enormous group of companies, The W Group, following a fatal plunge from his penthouse apartment orchestrated by an individual who clearly knows him but who we don't get to see.
The story then moves to Istanbul and an incident in a shop designed to frame an innocent young man. This is Largo Winczlav, a man with no apparent direction in life taking in the sights of Europe. But there's more to Largo than meets the eye, hence the attempt to set him up - he's the heir to the W Group and now worth $10 billion.
And Largo is no waster either. He's capable, he's intelligent and he can look after himself, and it's going to come as a shock to those that are attempting to remove him from the field of play.
Van Hamme is the master at this kind of storytelling, confounding expectations and melding action, intrigue and suspense to create a a veritable riveting read. He's backed up in this instance by yet another top drawer artist, Philippe Francq, who's rendering of Largo's world makes this, in turn, a top drawer comic. Who'd have thought the world of big business could be so exciting.
And if you liked that: Grab a copy of Van Hamme's Lady S
Garfield, the famous cartoon cat, celebrates his 34th birthday on Tuesday, and his creator says the smart-alecky cartoon cat who hates Mondays and loves lasagna will probably outlive him.
"I wouldn't be opposed to having someone carry on when I can't do it," said Jim Davis, 66, who launched the comic strip about a single guy who lives with his cat in June, 1978.
"I developed the strip to make people laugh, to feel better. That's what really drives me, and if Garfield can continue to do that for 500 more years that would be great!", said Davis.
Plans to celebrate Garfieldís birthday in Garfield style are afoot (or even a paw!). "We will enjoy it with friends and, in true Garfield spirit, eat as many hot dogs and hamburgers as we can possibly stuff ourselves with," Davis said, adding that someone might even cook up the tubby orange tabbyís favorite dish - Lasagna!
"I thought it would be funny for a cat to like lasagna," said Davis, explaining the origins of Garfield's peculiar appetite. "But as it turns out, cats like DO lasagna."
Garfield, who was named after Davis' grandfather, James Garfield Davis, has changed much since he first debuted in 1978 - he was fatter, and flabbier, when Davis first introduced him to the public.
He initially planned to call his new strip "Jon" after Garfieldís lovable but lonely owner, Jonathan Arbuckle, but "...every time I wrote a gag, the cat took the punchline," Davis said. "The cat was a wiseguy and, I swear, from the first day took over the strip. So, I gave in and changed the name of the strip to 'Garfield' and played with it."
With Garfield, Davis immediately knew he had something special, but he realised he needed more supporting characters besides the ever-optimistic Jon to counter the ever-pessimistic Garfield. One of the sidekicks he came up with was Odie, a dim-witted brown-eared beagle.
By Pat Grant
Publisher: Top Shelf/Giramondo
Blue is the story of a childhood spent by the sea, where childish naivety is slowly challenged by local changes and more adult perspectives.
Itís set in Australia, home of the author, Pat Grant, and as he acknowledges himself, contains a smidgin of autobiographical detail. Heís quick to point out that the similarities in parts of the story with Stephen Kingís The Body (filmed as Stand By Me) but stresses that he and his friend did indeed follow a train line to discover the grisly remains of an accident.
But thereís much more to the story than that. One of the driving elements is how the country copes with its influx of immigrants bringing their own food, culture and traditions. Grant portrayís them here as blue alien-like figures, but thereís little doubt as to who heís comparing them to.
Although the three lead characters are somewhat unsavoury, you except theyíre on the border of adulthood and are making mistakes. Grantís triumph is to still make them sympathetic.
What really tipped the scales for me is Grantís delicious artwork, featuring a plethora of snub-nosed, piggy-eyed grotesques and all exquisitely coloured in blues and browns. In one particular scene they come across a hideous teenaged hoodlum attempting to smash up some enormous machinery sheís found. Her motivation is simply sheer boredom. But the cartoon, filling the entire page, is lovingly crafted with absurd machine parts and pipes, nonsensical cables and cogs, against a background of odd foliage - itís all very, very Dave Cooper, and in my book thatís absolutely no bad thing at all.
As a little added bonus the back of the book is given over to Grantís memories of the Australian comic and cartooning scene, with a particular focus on surf comics. He goes into it in some detail, and itís clearly a huge inspiration and ongoing passion.
Blue touches on heavy political and social themes, but itís really about friendship, childhood and fun. Very much a worthy addition to your bookshelf.
And if you liked that: Grab yourself a copy of Suckle by Dave Cooper.