Review by Ian Keogh
Over three previous volumes Wayne Shelton has been a patchy series, which is odd because it’s been written by the European master of the action thriller Jean Van Hamme, who generally writes an American setting as if born there. He took his leave with The Contract, to which Thierry Cailleteau also contributed, and Cailleteau continues the hard man’s adventures, with the impeccable Christian Denayer remaining as artist.
Not much of Cailleteau’s backlist has been translated into English, but he’s had a solid European career, and sets his individual path by spotlighting Shelton’s past. The Survivor opens with Shelton protecting a Senator before moving back to the Vietnam war, with Shelton a Lieutenant commanding a platoon of the incorrigible, convicts who’ve been sent to serve as soldiers as an alternative to jail terms. He’s landed with Sgt Rod Hooker, a man with a considerable rap sheet, yet also of value when leading a patrol. In the present day Shelton meets someone who has a message from his son, except Shelton has no son. The message also mentions Hooker, though, and Shelton’s very keen to meet him again.
Denayer’s another not well known to English speaking audiences, yet a phenomenal artist working in the European action style. Every panel is detail-packed, but without ever dragging attention away from the focus. His action is smoothly choreographed and the cast are easily distinguished.
While not matching Van Hamme on top form, Cailleteau constructs a workable plot around Shelton wanting to believe the story about his son. There’s a credible explanation for that, and for most other aspects, although the general path is predictable, especially what leads up to the ending. The events of that mean Cailleteau and Denayer don’t finish here, but conclude Shelton’s trip down memory lane in The Vengeance.