Nero De Premières #5 Van Zwam: Het Geheim van Matsuoka – Comic Book Review
Follow Genre: Adventure
Written by: Marc Sleen
Illustrations: Marc Sleen
Publisher: Standaard Uitgeverij

Nero De Premières #5 Van Zwam: Het Geheim van Matsuoka – Comic Book Review

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Good: Witty, Peasant flow
Bad: Very basic drawing style
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Each publication in the series of Nero: De Premières focuses on one character of the popular Nero comic book series and treats us to a republication of the album in which that character appeared for the first time. With detective Van Zwam, we’re in for a special treat, as he actually takes the lead in the very first Nero comic book, and Nero himself is far from the Nero we came to know. Be as it may, Van Zwam doesn’t do that bad at all in the lead.

Nero De Premieres #5 banner

Van Zwam is reading the newspaper, which reports about a series of disturbing disappearances which all happened in the same street. Curious, he decides to go to the scene, but before he knows it, he is knocked down and taken away. When he wakes up, he finds himself trapped in a basement. All of a sudden, while roaming around the basement, he meets three quite extraordinary people who introduce themselves to him as Louis XIV, John with the hammer and emperor Nero. Soon he meets a fourth man as well, called Matsuoka, who explains to him that he has been captured by his men to be one of his guinea pigs. By letting him drink of his potion, Van Zwam will think that he is Charles the Bald and Matsuoka will be able to let him do everything he likes, just as he did with the others. Matsuoka’s plan works, but when John hits Charles (aka Van Zwam) on the head with his hammer in an argument, Van Zwam remembers who he really is, and tries to overpower Matsuoka. Matsuoka summons the other three to go after Van Zwam, but Van Zwam manages to escape into freedom, with the bottle of Matsuoka’s potion. Matsuoka will not give up though, and thus all of this is only just the beginning of this entertaining tale.

The flow in this comic book is constant, yet never too fast. The whole story keeps revolving around the chase of Matsuoka by Van Zwam, and vice versa, which makes sure there is always some action going on. Nonetheless, even though the story has some nice plot twists, it still feels a bit simple at times because it lacks a bit of depth, which will not take away any of the enjoyment though. Also the many subtle jokes are well appreciated.

The illustrations are very basic and look a lot different from what we are used to in a Nero comic book. It being the first album has probably something to do with it, as it seems to be that Marc Sleen did not yet develop his signature style. Despite all of this, his style is already visible, thus it’s fun to see the evolution in his illustrations.


Nero De Premières #5 Van Zwam: Het Geheim van Matsuoka is another fun addition to the series, that is especially interesting because it has Van Zwam as the lead character, rather than Nero himself, who is hardly in it. The story has a pleasant flow and constantly switches between Matsuoka and Van Zwam, who both try to take each other down. It’s a simple enough idea, yet fun enough as well. The illustrations look very basic, yet you will be able to recognize Marc Sleen’s signature style. All in all, you’ll not be sorry for sitting down to read this one.

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