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XIII

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XIII

XIII (Thirteen) is a Franco-Belgian comic book series written by the Belgian Jean Van Hamme and drawn by the Belgian William Vance. XIII is similar to Robert Ludlum's The Bourne Identity in that both protagonists have amnesia. XIII first appeared in 1984, and was later published by Dargaud. In 2004 the storyline of the first five volumes was adapted into a video game, also titled XIII, that was released on several platforms.

Volumes

Only the first three volumes were translated to English in the initial 1989 run by Catalan Communications. In 2005, Alias Comics started publishing it as a monthly comics edited for U.S. audiences, but stopped after 5 issues. In 2006, Dabel Brothers Productions started soliticing an uncensored XIII Volume 1 TP[1], and released issue #6 online for free[2]. English titles in the below list are translations of the original titles , and may change for the actual albums if and when they are released in English.

Most volumes consisted of three individual issues during the initial run, not otherwise named or numbered.

  1. The Day of The Black Sun, 1984 (Le jour du soleil noir) ISBN 0-87-416061-8
  2. Where the Indian Walks, 1985 (Là où va l'indien...) ISBN 0-87-416081-2
  3. All the Tears of Hell, 1986 (Toutes les larmes de l'enfer) ISBN 0-87-416092-8
  4. SPADS, 1987 (SPADS) ISBN 0-87-416130-4
  5. Red Alert, 1988 (Rouge total, "Total Red")
  6. The Jason Fly File, 1989 (Le dossier Jason Fly)
  7. The Night of 3rd August, 1990 (La nuit du 3 août)
  8. Thirteen Against One, 1991 (Treize contre un)
  9. For Maria, 1992 (Pour Maria)
  10. El Cascador, 1994 (El Cascador)
  11. Three Silver Watches, 1995 (Trois montres d'argent)
  12. The Verdict, 1997 (Le jugement)
  13. The XIII Mystery: The Research, 1999 (L'enquête)
  14. Danger to the State, 2000 (Secret défense, "top secret")
  15. Unleash the Dogs!, 2002 (Lâchez les chiens !)
  16. Operation Montechristo, 2004 (Opération Montechristo)
  17. Maximilian's Gold, 2005 (L'or de Maximilien)
  18. The Last Round, To Be announced (Le Dernier Round). Last one of the series.

Storyline

The series starts when a man washes up on a shore in Peacock Bay in the East Coast of the United States, suffering from amnesia, with only a 'XIII' tattoo to link him to his past. Volumes one through five deal with XIII searching for his identity and his past, only to find himself confronting the "conspiracy of the XX" which aims to a coup d'état in the United States. They form a closed story arc, ending with the destruction of the "conspiracy of the XX".

In the first volume XIII washes ashore, and soon finds himself hunted by a contract killer known as the Mongoose for reasons unknown to him. XIII departs to the city of Eastown, where he is recognised by many as Steve Rowland. Once again hunted by the Mongoose's men, XIII manages to escape with the help of Colonel Amos, a government agent in charge of the investigation of the murder of American President William Sheridan, a crime XIII seems to have committed. XIII first manages to escape the Mongoose with Amos' help, and then flee Amos' hands.

In the second volume XIII's search for his identity leads to his capture by army General Carrington, who confirms XIII's identity as Steve Rowland, and reveals to XIII Rowland was an operative working under Carrington. "Rowland" is returned to his home in Southbourg by Carrington's aide Jones. XIII does not recognise anyone, but he is recognised by his father Jeremie Rowland and others. However Rowland's wife Kim is nowhere to be found. After an encounter with Amos, who still considers XIII his prime suspect but is willing to let him go for now, XIII is tricked by Jeremie Rowland's young wife Felicity: Felicity kills Jeremie Rowland and Steve's uncle Matt, letting XIII take the blame. He escapes with Carrington's help, and meets with Kim at Kelownee Lake in the north. Kim reveals to him she is tattood as well, wearing tattoo number XVII. Kim then betrays XIII to the police and disappears again, and XIII, "Steve Rowland", is tried and found guilty for the murder of the Rowlands, and sentenced to maximum security prison.

The third volume finds XIII in a facility for the criminally insane. Meanwhile Amos and Carrington meet up, and they begin to realize that XIII is not Rowland and not the murderer of president Sheridan, but a body double. Carrington provides the papers of a Ross Tanner, who fits XIII's physique, and is likely his true identity. Nevertheless Amos decides to leave XIII in prison. Carrington and Jones hatch an escape plot, and manage to free XIII, after an encounter with one of the Mongoose's killers, Irina Svetlanova.

Volume four begins with XIII, using the name of Ross Tanner, in a training facility of the SPADS. Amos learns that Carrington invented the Tanner identity, and finds that XIII's true identity was Jason Fly. Shortly after this discovery he reveals Judge Allenby, a member of Amos' agency, as one of the conspirators. Meanwhile XIII is nearly killed by SPADS head Seymour MacCall. Together with one of the SPADS, Betty Barnowsky, Rowland once again escapes with the help of Jones. Barnowsky is taken along as she has evidence linking Rowland with MacCall, and can thereby prove the conspiracy.

At the start of volume five XIII, Jones, and Barnowsky meet up with Marquis de Préseau, a rich land owner. Préseau helps them return to the USA. Meanwhile Carrington has been arrested by the conspirators, as they prepare to take over the country during a large-scale military operation. XIII and the women meet with Colonel Amos, who brings them into contact with Walter Sheridan. Sheridan helps XIII infiltrate the military centre of operations, and together with President Galbrain they manage to stop the conspiracy at the last moment.

At the end of the story arc XIII believes he has found his old identity as "Jason Fly", and is prepared to continue his life normally, even if his memories have not yet returned. The entire conspiracy, with the exception of the illustrous Number I, has been killed or captured, and XIII has the support of new President Walter Sheridan.

In the following volumes XIII takes up the investigation about his past. Volumes six and seven bring XIII to Greenfalls, a snowy town in the Rocky Mountains, where the story revolves around the fate of his father in the McCarthian 1950s. XIII learns that his father, "Jonathan Fly", was murdered by the local Ku Klux Klan chapter, after they found out Fly's real identity was Jonathan MacLane, a "red" journalist who had to flee after suffering under McCarthy's witch hunt. Despite another murder attempt by the Mongoose, XIII leaves Greenfalls after having taken revenge on the murderers of his father, and with a good idea that he has finally found his true identity as Jason MacLane.

In volume eight, XIII is approached by President Sheridan to become a special agent, charged with finding the still at large Number I. XIII uses the presidential backing to track down Kim Rowland, and learns she is General Carrington's daughter. XIII, Jones, and Kim are caught by the Mongoose, who traps them on a yacht, and explodes it. XIII has to chose between rescuing Kim or Jones, and choses the latter. Kim Rowland is lost and presumed dead. XIII is now convinced that he has learned the identity of Number I, and confronts Walter Sheridan with this. Although he cannot prove it, XIII swears he will make Sheridan pay, and leaves the nation.

In the following volumes the action takes place in and around Costa Verde, a small nation in Central America where XIII once led a revolution under the identity of "El Cascador". XIII gets involved after revolutionary Maria de Los Santos claims to have been his wife. XIII's belief in his identity is shattered: he learns that El Cascador was known as "Kelly Brian", and possibly an IRA operative. Eventually Maria becomes president of the country, despite a plot by the National Security Agency, led by Frank Giordino, to have her and XIII killed.

During the revolution XIII met up with Irish native Sean Mullway, who claims to be XIII's real father. However, he also confirms XIII's identity as "Jason MacLane". The history of XIII's Irish descent is revealed, and XIII learns that his mother was the sister of Giordino, who accidentally murdered her. The Giordinos are revealed as a Mafia family. At the end of the volume XIII is offered amnesty by the American ambassador, who explains that XIII's help is needed: Carrington has apparently gone insane.

In volume twelve XIII finds himself once again confronted by his old enemy, the Mongoose. The corrupt American president Sheridan is kidnapped by General Carrington, who blames Sheridan for Kim's death. In a televised "trial" Sheridan is revealed to the American public as a conspirator, with XIII and the Mongoose testifying. In the aftermath of the event the NSA director Giordino accidentally kills Sheridan, after Sheridan has killed the Mongoose.

Volume thirteen (XIII) is a special issue, where two journalists retrace the first twelve issues, clarifying and expanding the storyline.

Volumes fourteen to seventeen continue the storyline. While in exile in Costa Verde, XIII and his father Mullway decide to attempt to find a treasure hidden somewhere in Mexico by their ancestors. Meanwhile Giordino fabricates evidence revealing XIII as one Seamus O'Neill, an IRA operative who trained under Fidel Castro. As O'Neill XIII is wanted by the USA, but again manages to escape. He also survives an assassination by Irina Svetlanova, who has taken over the Mongoose's operation. After many setbacks the treasure is found, and then lost again. Meanwhile Giordino is finally removed from duty by the new President, who has received evidence from XIII and Mullway revealing Giordino as not only a capo of the Mafia, but also as the true killer of Walter Sheridan.

Volume eighteen, expected in 2006, is to be the last album written by Van Hamme. Vance is expected to continue the series with a new writer, whose name has not yet been revealed.

Popularity

First released in 1984 as a serial in the popular Belgian paper Spirou magazine, XIII was an instant hit among Spirou readers. The first three issues were released as a single hardback volume by Spirou published Dargaud the same year, a trend continued for later issues. By the time of the eighth issue, Thirteen against one, sales of the hardback had reached 140,000 copies, and the publisher belatedly realized that they have a bestseller on their hands. Promotion started, including a special drawing by the French national lottery in 2000 with 1,500,000 tickets and a €13,000 grand prize.

Translations

Originally in French, XIII was quickly translated into Dutch, and translations in other languages such as German, Polish and Italian quickly followed.

In English
  • In 1989, XIII was first released in English as Code XIII, but after the first three volumes publication ended in 1990 when the publisher went out of business.
  • In 2005, Alias Comics started publishing the title as a series of 32-page monthly pamphlets edited for U.S. audiences. Five issues were released, but #6 was "Cancelled by Publisher" in February 2006[3].
  • In 2006, the series went to Dabel Brothers Productions. They released the #6 online for free[2], and announced its publication as uncensored TPBs [1]. The first 144-page volume was solicited in March 2006 and is expected for June 2006.

XIII video game

Main article: XIII (game)

XIII was adapted as a 2003 video game released for PlayStation 2, GameCube, Xbox, the PC, and the Apple Macintosh. The plot of the game is an adaption of the first five volumes of the comic series.

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