Review by Frank Plowright
Just look at the effort that artist William Vance puts into the opening half-page panel of Full Red. The three page scene it begins isn’t irrelevant, but the salient points could have been conveyed in passing. Certainly any movie director would cut the lot and replace them with a TV announcement, yet Vance supplies the full view, with no stinting on the detail that convinces. A man of influence is being buried, and Vance’s depiction features over a hundred mourners, at least half drawn full figure, a flower-draped coffin, and all the surrounding scenery, peripherals and transport. It’s stunning, and the result of a system permitting an artist the luxury of a year to produce 46 pages.
Spads concluded with XIII, now believed to be Ross Tanner, quitting his SPADS unit in spectacular style, and being stranded on a tropical coast with his former commanding officer Betty Barnowsky, and the mysterious government agent Lieutenant Jones. It’s not quite the paradise that might be assumed, however, and escaping back to the USA requires considerable ingenuity and a new ally.
Returning to the USA, though, also isn’t the safest place for XIII, what with the conspirators behind the President’s death massing their forces for a coup under the guise of a mass training exercise.
Jean Van Hamme inflates his action thriller to nail biting proportions with a prize beyond compare at stake, and it’s related in very believable terms and delivered in cinematic fashion. Of course, when you’re crafting an action thriller it helps if one of your leads is drawn like Lee Marvin.
There’s a distinct resolution to many of the plots introduced when the series began, and a rapid update on leading cast members on the final page indicates that at some stage Full Red might have been the place that Vance and Van Hamme chose to call a halt. The Jason Fly Case appeared a year later though, as some mysteries remained.