When they began their tale of an amnesiac agent in 1984, surely neither writer Jean Van Hamme nor artist William Vance foresaw a run of eighteen books (nineteen if a recap volume not translated into English is counted) and 23 years before reaching a conclusion. In France this and its predecessor were published simultaneously as a real event, each tying up one aspect of the ongoing plots. The Irish Version definitively established XIII’s true identity, while The Last Round takes XIII and companions back to the USA to settle accounts with corrupt former head of the NSA Frank Giordino.

Van Hamme plays old home week, as pretty well anyone who’s survived their role in the series to date is featured at some stage. Giordino has disappeared as hearings set-up to investigate him continue, but still wields enough influence to ensure some people don’t appear to testify.

One aspect of XIII which has occasionally fallen below the high standards Van Hamme sets for himself is inserting the information required to follow what has become a very complex plot. Here there’s no such concern as he slips in an interview with journalist Danny Finkelstein (last seen in Release the Hounds), who’s published a book, so providing the recap.

The remainder is Van Hamme on excellent form, and no-one who’s read the series to date is going to be disappointed. The plots twists and turns, and there’s a heightened suspense throughout as we’ve now reached the final curtain, so there’s no need for anyone to survive. Previously at least there was the certainty that XIII would make it to the next volume.

As for Vance, it’s been said before, but what an artist he is. His storytelling is exemplary, the expansive cast all utterly distinct, and the action sequences thrilling. Using an extremely fine line and very little shade, there’s nothing this man can’t draw convincingly.

Being as it’s the final volume of an eighteen book run, this is hardly the place to start reading XIII. As thrilling as it is, there are no further secrets, and while not definitive, the conclusion is a statement. Anyone who’s interest is piqued should begin with Day of the Black Sun and continue from there. This wasn’t entirely the end for XIII, though, as two series by different creators spun out of it. XIII Mystery focuses on members of the supporting cast, and while only one has appeared translated in book form, two further volumes are available digitally. Since 2011 Yves Sente and Youri Jigounov have continued with what’s referred to as the second cycle, and Cinebook are also issuing these as they’re published in Europe, beginning with Day of the Mayflower.