The series itself is the adventures of the extremely repressed and homophobic (asexual, really; he’s not interested in women either, though he’s not as rude about it) NATO Major Klaus Heinz von dem Eberbach, who often crosses paths with the extremely flamboyantly gay Earl Dorian Red Gloria, also known as the art thief Eroica. Generally, Klaus has a mission and runs into Eroica who is interested in the target for different reasons, and they end up working together. This series was started in the mid-70s and the style of the art is very different from any current series. The series was on hiatus for a while, but I think it’s still currently running (at least with occasional chapters). It is a fairly episodic series; each mission is a complete story (though the current arc started in v8 and continues into v10), but there are recurring characters and the past is occasionally relevant. There is a theory that the “Red” should actually be “Led”; his character design is similar to the 70s Robert Plant, and he has henchmen named James (with floppy black hair), Bonham, and I think there’s a Jones somewhere. The first volume features a trio of psychic teenagers and a crazy Interpol (?) agent; Klaus makes his first appearance at the end of that volume, and the teenagers are never seen again, thankfully.
I read v8 when it was released in January 2007 and have so have no idea why Klaus and Mischa the Bear Cub (KGB) are sitting in a bar in a small town in Spain trying to outdrink each other while waiting for their men; of course, being drunk, they start fighting eventually, much to the bartender’s dismay. Klaus is actually drunk, which surprised me; possibly his drunkenness is why he handed the important papers to the waiter for safekeeping (bad enough) without realizing that the waiter was Eroica in disguise (even worse). I think the papers are a KGB report that NATO somehow acquired; Klaus was to take it somewhere, Mischa wants it back, and Eroica wants to use it to trade for a painting. Eroica wants Klaus to chase him, so he goes to Rome and then to Egypt; the Major follows with some difficulty. Eroica’s accountant James sees an opportunity for income and makes several copies of the report with the intention of selling them to various agencies. Unfortunately, an outsider (who has a grudge against Eroica) gets one of the copies and wants to negotiate with all three; Eroica gets drunk and starts to do a striptease; and Mischa and Klaus convince him to steal the papers. All of them are planning to double-cross the other two and take the papers and run.
I do like this series; I giggled my way through reading this volume. There’s not a lot of character development, and they are all a bit one-dimensional, with their defining traits often exaggerated to the point of ridiculousness (James’ attitude towards money is an extreme example: he will do anything to get it and is extremely reluctant to spend it; he wears patched clothes by choice, he buys second-hand and out-of-date equipment, and his greed was the catalyst for part of the plot in this volume), The major’s occasional violence towards Eroica and Eroica’s acceptance of the violence does bother me a little, and I can’t help but wonder if Eroica’s obsession with the major is a case of wanting what he can’t have.