The James Bond Omnibus 004
- Words: Jim Lawrence
- Art: Yaroslav Horak
- Publisher: Titan Books
- Price: £14.99
- Release Date: Oct 12, 2012
Posted by Andy Oliver on Oct 29, 2012
Jim Lawrence scripts some suitably convoluted thrillers full of the requisite twisting plots, exotic locales, femmes fatales, and malevolent masterminds that are such a staple element of Bond’s domain in any genre.
Dating from the 1970s, the black and white newspaper strips reprinted in Titan’s The James Bond Omnibus Volume 004 see Ian Fleming’s agent 007 up to his neck in espionage exploits and international terrorist plots involving stolen military secrets, bizarre vampiric cults, and the nefarious forces of SMERSH. This compilation of material, originally published in the U.K.’s The Daily Express, revisits nine classic original adventures written by Jim Lawrence and illustrated by Yaroslav Horak.
While the stories presented here range from 1971-75, and are concurrent with the height of popularity of the Bond film franchise, they present a 007 who is largely more reliant on his reflexes and quick wits than on a pithy one-liner or a knowing look to camera. Jim Lawrence scripts some suitably convoluted thrillers full of the requisite twisting plots, exotic locales, femmes fatales, and malevolent masterminds that are such a staple element of Bond’s domain in any genre. Horak’s intricately crafted artwork firmly roots the strip in the real world without losing any of those larger than life sensibilities that are so necessary in a rollicking good 007 caper.
There’s a couple of tales in this collection with particularly memorable baddies for Bond to pit his wits against. "Trouble Spot" features the malevolent Baron Sharck who has more than a slight air of a Dick Tracy villain to him and "Isle of Condors" makes use of an antagonist with a rather gruesome method of dispatching his enemies via some trained avian allies. "The League of Vampires" and "The Nevsky Nude" add some extra tension to the proceedings by adding a faux supernatural element to the mix while entries like "The Phoenix Project" and "The Black Ruby Caper" put Bond in a more traditional setting by playing to the character’s strengths with fast paced, action packed spy yarns.
It’s important of course when viewing a collection like this to bear in mind the context in which it was published. There’s a considerable and often overlooked skill in maintaining the flow of an ongoing narrative in chunks of usually just three panels as a newspaper strip is obliged to do. Not only does the story have to tangibly progress in such a confined amount of space but there’s also a need to maintain the readership’s interest for the next daily instalment with a series of hooks and cliffhangers. While the serials in this collection are perhaps not quite as accomplished in that regard as those seen in the Modesty Blaise volumes (another of Titan’s newspaper strip compilations), the movement between daily episodes only occasionally has a disjointed feel. When you consider over how many months these stories were originally serialised, that’s no mean feat.
And while we are on the subject of context there’s also a historical one that needs to be addressed before diving into this compilation. British newspaper comics have a history of scenes of gratuitous titillation, as perhaps most famously evidenced in the Jane series of the 1930s onwards, and still seen today in various football-related comic strips in popular tabloid papers. The stories reprinted here are, then, replete with examples of Bond’s female supporting characters losing their clothes at any opportunity. Whether it’s the bizarre sight of a female Russian SMERSH agent parachuting naked into the U.K. on a covert mission (the lack of clothes apparently an aid in not being identified!) or the relatively more prosaic occurrence of Bond identifying a contact in the wonderfully archaic terminology of a nudist colony, the undraped female form makes its presence felt in a number of rather contrived scenarios. Be warned if that sort of thing is likely to annoy or offend.
At nearly 300 pages of densely presented and lovingly reproduced vintage material for under £15, this is a trade paperback that certainly provides value for your hard earned cash. The James Bond Omnibus 004 is a cracking collection of comfort reading classics that will appeal to both hardcore Fleming fans and those with a more general interest in the history of the British newspaper comic strip. Lawrence and Horak’s interpretation of the superspy may be three or four decades old but it remains a worthy addition to the multi-genre Bond franchise.
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