Created by Takao Saito
English version published by Viz Media 2006
I am hardly an expert on Manga films. In total, the animé feature films I have watched could be counted on one hand. And I hate to admit, my ignorance of Manga comics is even greater. But Golgo 13 is a character whose adventures I have enjoyed, and when I saw a copy of one of the Manga comics I had to pick it up. Now Golgo 13 has been carrying out ‘hits’ for over four decades, and as the cover of this book states that it was ‘created’ by Takao Saito, rather than ‘written’ by, I’d guess these adventures were put together by some new kids on the block. I say ‘these’ because there are two stories in the book, the first major story is The Gun At Am Shara and the second lesser one is called Hit And Run.
What surprised me about the book is that it doesn’t take place in a fictional universe, it happens in our world and uses real events as a backdrop. The major story, The Gun At Am Shara uses the aftermath of the Gulf War as it’s setting and Saddam Hussein as a villain. The President of the United States, although never named, looks a lot like Bill Clinton.
The Supergun is not a reference to Golgo 13’s marksmanship, or even the weapon he is carrying on the front cover. It refers to a gigantic cannon built by Saddam Hussein and hidden at a secret dam facility in Iraq.
The story starts in 1991, and a UN Inspection Team in Iraq intercepts a truck carrying a large section of pipe. The Iraqi officer insists that the pipe is for the construction of a dam, and the Inspection Team are obligated to let the truck continue its journey.
Six years later a spy satellite catches a glimpse of the pipe reflected in the lake at Am Shara, but the pipe hasn’t been used as a part of the super-structure. It appears to be a barrel of a Supergun. Saddam has ambitious plans for the gun. He is planning to fire a huge rocket at the United States – his target: The White House.
America’s dilemma is that they cannot destroy the gun with an air-strike as that would destroy the dam itself, which would not only decimate the water supply for that area, but also kill thousands of innocent civilians in the pursuant flood.
Instead they chose to send in a specialist to sabotage the gun. That specialist is Duke Togo – better known as the legendary assassin, Golgo 13. It’s a bit of a character turn-around, and I don’t know if this is ‘updating’ the character for a modern audience – as we a living in a time of ‘terror’, or simply the ‘new kids’ who have written this tale, have not been particularly faithful to Saito’s original character. Anyway, Golgo crosses into Iraq, over the Jordanian border; posing as Mr. Kobayashi, a reporter from the Japanese News Agency.
Once again I was very surprised by the story. From the films, I had an impression of the type of story I would get, but this is just a bloody good espionage story. The beginning could come from a movie like The Peacemaker or Patriot Games with high tech satellite imaging, and boffins interpreting the intel. In fact the first 50 pages of the book are filled with this – and while it is fascinating and laying down a nice platform for the story, it also means that we are 50 pages into the story before Golgo 13 makes an appearance.
Those of you, who care of about such things, may have noted that Golgo 13: Supergun bears more than a passing resemblance to Frederick Forsyth’s The Fist of God which was published in 1994. Although this American edition of Supergun was published in 2006, I cannot establish when it was originally released in Japan.
The second story, Hit and Run is only slight, but it is tougher and punchier than Supergun. It starts in San Francisco in 1979, with a mob boss behind the wheel of his flash, fuel-guzzling car. Unfortunately his mind isn’t on the road, but on the gorgeous babe who is sitting beside him. As he drives, he hits a pedestrian and leaves the woman for dead. The victim’s fiancée is an ex-cop – a very bitter and angry ex cop. Why is he an ex-cop? He left the force after he failed to protect a man from Golgo 13’s sniper’s rifle.
The story may be short, but it’s filled with gratuitous illustrated violence, sex and swearing – all good things!
This graphic novel is very enjoyable, but not as a Golgo 13 adventure. As you’d be aware by now, that I love my spy films and books, and on that level, this book really satisfies, but as a Golgo 13 story (from my limited experience) this appears to be very different to what I am used to. Turning Golgo 13 into a good guy, just seems wrong!
If you are interested in the intrigue behind the real ‘Supergun’, then head over to Jeremy Duns’ new blog The Debrief where he has posted an article about the mysterious death of Saddam’s scientist Gerald Bull.