Review by Karl Verhoven
Insiders is unusual for a series of French graphic albums in that it’s plotted as the equivalent of a TV show season, presenting one long continued story, in this case over eight graphic novels (the first two combined for English translation). Missiles for Islamabad concluded with a perilous situation for the prime operative of the independent US security agency after which the series is titled. Undercover agent Najah Cruz survived an explosion in Islamabad only to be abducted along with a French businessman Bertrand Cordez, not averse to a shady deal. As he’s the French President’s son in law the diplomatic dogs are set loose.
Their capturers are possibly Taliban, but hint at a wider agenda. Whatever Najah might have expected, it probably wasn’t to end up at the palace of an Oxford educated warlord and his English wife. This, though is a book of two halves, and the second sees the fightback, with the criminals for once not as controlling as they assumed.
Action sequences with contemporary transport, remote Afghani cave hideouts, or an opulent French chateau are all stylishly illustrated by Renaud Garreta, with a night parachute drop and subsequent raid notably spectacular.
With a top class artist and a decent world-spanning and intricate plot, the one big drawback to Insiders remains the poor dialogue. This isn’t down to the translation. On too many occasions characters have conversations explaining their motivations to each other, and these are peppered with extraneous detail – “I’ll see you again at our dear Baroness’s Normandy Estate” – over the top flattery – “I expected no less from the grandmaster of hidden godfathers” – or explanations, often unrequired, delivered in an unrealistic manner – “China’s economic growth isn’t about to stop anytime soon!”. After three books it might be assumed the original French editor might have stepped in.
There’s no question Jean-Claude Bartoll has carried out his research with the diligence of a former journalist. Dialogue apart, he convinces with characters whose only motivation is riches, never mind the human cost, and with the workings of both criminal and intelligence agencies. Oh, and have you ever fancied setting up as a heroin dealer? Bartoll lays out the cultivation and process for you.
There’s been significant shift in both momentum and allegiances by the end of The Afghan Trap, and it leads into the rather strangely titled Takeover Bid on the Kremlin.