Wayne Shelton 3: The Contract, written by Jean Van Hamme & Thierry Cailleteau, drawn by Christian Denayer, Cinebook, £7.99/$13.95
♦ Wayne Shelton may sound more like a cabaret artist of dubious provenance than a superspy, but in the hands of Jean Van Hamme, a writer of considerable previous form with Largo Winch, XIII , and Thorgal to his credit, and his cowriter Thierry Cailleteau and artist Christian Denayer Wayne packs quite a punch.
In the previous Wayne Shelton album, his attempt to break someone out from Khalakjistan prison was jeopardised by betrayal and ended with explosions, bullets, and a considerable amount of death. Wayne is back, and doing his duty: giving the chosen next of kin of his deceased associates their share of the payment for the disastrous Khalakjistan mission. This doesn’t last long, as a series of assassination attempts are made on Wayne’s life, bullets, bombs – there seems to be quite a price on Wayne’s head. Happily he is being tailed by a biker who seems to have quite the interesting keeping him alive.
Van Hamme and Cailleteau’s Shelton seems to be an affectionate nod to action heroes of old: more Roger Moore than Daniel Craig, but despite not being the most up-to-date of heroes Shelton can still deliver. This isn’t Largo Winch or XIII, and as long as you don’t expect that, you won’t be disappointed. Christian Denayer’s art is top-flight European album art in the realist style. Denayer is 70 now, and it is incredible to think that he can deliver this quality of work on a regular basis. He seems to have a heavy influence from the school of Alex Raymond and Al Williamson (I’m thinking specifically of Williamson’s Secret Agent X9 here) but with a more European line quality, and a slight tendency to caricature.
If you miss adventure comics, and you like fast-paced and well drawn high-quality storytelling give Wayne Shelton a try. You may have to get over the name first…