Thursday, December 21, 2006

24. Largo Winch

Get ready for an onslaught of last minute updates!

Largo Winch cover picture
Largo Winch is another very popular bande dessinée by Van Hamme. It's also as I have come to see with Van Damme's work, another story centered on an attractive white male who is disconnected from his roots. (Thorgal is the only other example I've posted so far here, but you will see others; it's definitely a major theme in Van Hamme's oeuvre).

Largo Winch is probably the lightest and most fantastic of them all, in the sense of adolescent wish fulfillment. It is a long-running series, structured in episodes of two albums. In the first two albums, it is established that Largo is an orphaned adventurer, a long-seasoned traveller who is actually the long-lost heir to a vast corporate empire, Winch Industries. The CEO and Winch's long-lost father (although the background to their relationship is much more complex and convoluted) has himself killed (or maybe doesn't; as I say it's complicated) and leaves his empire to Largo, who happens to be traipsing around Istanbul without a penny in his pocket, completely ignorant to his destiny. Of course, there are usurper's to the throne who want Largo out of the way and the hunt is on.
Largo mugshot picture

After his legitimacy is established, Largo takes the reins of power and the strength of his character, despite his total lack of business experience, proves him to be a natural, if unorthodox, business leader. From this point on, every two albums is a new adventure in which, in the first album, some problem arises which Largo, and a few recurring characters, then solve in the second album, all the while visiting exotic locations. blowing things up, showing off their ass-kicking skills, embarrassing uptight rich people and getting laid in the process to a series of comic-book hot secretaries, stewardesses, heiressses and sometimes villainesses.
Winch hottie picture
There is an ongoing story arc, although it imposes itself rather lightly on the serialized adventure structure. It involves the various factions of the vast empire of Largo Industries, many of whom are often working to unseat or disgrace Largo. There are great board meetings, where Largo whips out his knife and demonstrates his knife-throwing skill at some executive who tried to buy him out. I think it is this fantasy element, the street and life-trained individual bringing his skills to bear against slimy, but smart capitalists whose only game is in the office that makes Largo Winch more than just an extended adolescent fantasy. It does become a bit repetitive after a while, but for short bursts, it is really quite fun. I would say that Largo Winch is probably Van Hamme's least interesting work (that I've read so far), or perhaps the most self-indulgent, but compared to most adolesecent male power fantasies, it is still very effectively done, with funny and engaging secondary characters (the old maid secretary, the apache-pilot buddy, the uptight bureaucrat second-in-command) and really over-the-top adventure situations. Van Hamme puts his characters in serious jams.

So, good stuff but it doesn't last long.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This looks like a good one. There seems to be a certain asthetic in the artwork of the bande dessinée I am seeing as you post about them.

Do you see a link?