Looking for a high octane action packed thriller with corporate conspiracies, murder and exotic locations? Then Largo Winch Vol. 1: The Heir is for you!
Largo Winch is a staple of modern Franco-Belgian graphic novels, plunging us into the exciting world of a tough young billionaire who seems to attract trouble wherever he goes. From the high life of the rich and the famous, to dingy backstreets in ancient cities –Largo Winch Vol. 1: The Heir does not disappoint. Here’s why…
Note: The first English language volume of Largo Winch includes both ‘The Heir’ and it’s continuation ‘The W Group’.
Largo Winch: The Heir
Largo Winch Vol. 1: The Heir by Philippe Francq and Jean Van Hamme starts off with a murder mystery. Neiro Winch, American multi-billionaire and business tycoon, is murdered and it is up to his adoptive son Largo to figure out ‘whodunit’ and save his inheritance. But Largo runs into trouble at every step of the way. Starting while he is on holiday in Istanbul, Turkey.
Framed for a murder he didn’t commit, Largo meets the roguish Swiss troublemaker Simon Ovronnaz in a Turkish jail. Both men plan to breakout. This is all complicated by the corporate machinations of the W Groups (Neiro Winch’s conglomerate) board of directors, on of who is behind Neiro’s murder and does not want Largo to take up his inheritance.
Things are further complicated by corrupt elements in the Turkish government (a nod to the ‘deep state’ that really rules that country) who first seek to profit from Largo’s newfound wealth and then, when he and Simon stage a successful escape, will stop at nothing to cover up their involvement in his unlawful detention. This includes killing anybody who knew that Largo had been imprisoned.
Can Largo and Simon escape from Turkey with a secret government hit squad on their trail? Will Largo make it to the USA in time to take over the W Group? With his enemies outside and inside the boardroom closing in on him, will Largo win the day?
I loved this action packed introduction to the Largo Winch story. I always marvel at the ability of Franco-Belgian graphic novels to introduce you to a rich and detailed world of characters with unique personalities in 60 pages or less.
Although he is murdered right at the beginning, Nerio character overshadows much of The Heir and the subsequent conclusion The W Group. But Largo is his own man. A charming, educated and very capable man. One who goes through lives with throwing knives strapped to his ankles and thinks fast when people shot at him.
His burgeoning friendship with Simon, romantic tension with his old English flame Charity and his clear sense of right and wrong really make him stand out. He’s no pampered rich playboy, he’s more Batman (without the angst and trauma or tights) than Bruce Wayne. Thing is he doesn’t go out of his way looking for trouble. Trouble seems to be inexplicably attracted to him. Philippe Francq’s rendering of Istanbul is gorgeous and Jean Van Hamme writing is top notch as always.
Largo Winch: The W Group
Largo Winch: The W Group is a journey into the past and continues the story started in The Heir. We finally dive into Largo’s backstory. We get to see how Neiro Winch raised him to be the perfect heir and how Largo rebelled and resented his fate at every turn.
It’s an interesting journey throughout Western and South-Eastern Europe, showing us landscapes and people we rarely get to see in graphic novels. From his childhood in Lichtenstein to running away to join a circus in the former Yugoslavia, Largo can never really escape Nieros shadow (literally).
The story cuts to the present, showing Largo’s efforts to consolidate his hold over the W Group while staring down the overambitious directors of its subsidiaries. During this meeting, Largo issues a challenge to the mysterious enemy that has been haunting him since the events of The Heir. I’m coming for you!
In order to establish his authority and credibility with the board, he also reveals that ownership of the W Group is based on ten share certificates hidden in a secret location. Thing is that for legal reason, these founders shares were left blank. Anyone can fill them in and inherit the group! Hmm… sounds fishy.
Largo jets off to Europe with his crew and uptight group Director of Administration Dwight Cochrane who will often serve as the object of inadvertent comic relief throughout the series. At the same time, the mysterious assassin from The Heir is also on the move.
Will Largo reach the hidden founders shares before his enemies? Who murdered Neiro and has been making Largo’s life difficult ever since Istanbul? Can Largo really trust the self-confessed thief and scoundrel Simon?
The W Group comes to a violent head on a beautiful out of the way island in the Adriatic Sea. Will Largo survive to take over his inheritance? Will he want to take on a life he has hated and rebelled against his whole life?
The W Group brings the story of The Heir to an exciting close. Largo is a charming but very human person. He has his insecurities. He has doubts. He’s a young man struggling to take on a role that would crush men thrice his age!
The Art and Writing of Largo Winch Vol. 1: The Heir & The W Group
As always Philippe Francq’s artwork is exquisite! You can see the impact that the clear line (or Belgian ligne Claire) style has had on his work. However it’s his amazing ability to realistically illustrate Largo’s world with minimal details that stands out. I’ve always believed that artists who created the entire artwork for graphic novels (unlike the American system of splitting drawing, inking and coloring into separate jobs) produce better work.
I especially like Francq’s ability to render the different land and city-scapes of the US and Europe convincingly. You actually feel that you are in a different country just by looking at the environment.
Jean Van Hamme is one of the master story tellers of Franco-Belgian comics and it shows. Largo Winch’s plot is engaging, its dialog flows and the characters have their own unique personalities. Part of why The Heir is such a riveting narrative is the fact that the Largo Winch story started with a series of thriller novels that Van Hamme wrote before collaborating with Francq to turn them into graphic novels.
If you like Van Hamme’s stories I would really urge you to pick up his sword and sorcery series Thorgal or his spy thriller XIII!
Once again, British publisher Cinebooks has delivered a classic Franco-Belgian graphic novel to the English speaking world. Cinebooks did an excellent job with translating Largo Winch into English. While this book is aimed at adults, some visuals have been changed in order to accommodate more squeamish Anglophone readers. I think this is funny as its ok to show graphic death and violence but a little bit of nudity or sex makes everyone go crazy! Different countries, different norms!
Pick up Largo Winch Vol. 1: The Heir today. This 96 paperback album collects the first Largo Winch stories ‘The Heir’ and ‘The W Group’.
It’s a classic Franco-Belgian graphic novel that will shine in any collection. If you like thrillers, adventures and corporate intrigue (that isn’t boring). As well as fast paced action combined with globetrotting through gorgeous foreign locations this is the book for you!
Enjoy your reading!
PS: If you like thrillers, rouge yet heroic millionaires and globe trotting with class -you can get your copy of Largo Winch Volume 1: The Heir (which includes The W Group) in paperback here.