(2008) Jim Lawrence, John McLusky & Yaroslav Horak, Titan Books, £12.99, Can$22.95, US$19.95, trdpbk, 120pp, ISBN 978-1-84576-717-4
This is the fifteenth and final volume in the Titan trade paperback collections of the James Bond newspaper strips that appeared in British and overseas newspapers for a little over 25 years between 1958 and 1984. The timing of the release of this new volume came just between the two latest Bond films, starring Daniel Craig as everyone's favourite British agent with a licence to kill. Both films, Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace, have had a mixed reception for more or less the same reason. They are closer to the spirit of the original Ian Fleming books than their predecessors, in that neither rely on nifty gadgets or particularly fantastic plots. Instead Bond is stripped back to his original conception, just a man with a gun and a lot of courage. Fans of the films to date, though still treated to much in the way of action, have been disappointed at the streamlined Bond. Fans of the books have been relieved to find that a filmmaker is finally doing Bond justice. The debate will continue to rage...
It is amazing to think that the James Bond newspaper strips first appeared more than fifty years ago in July 1958, and even more amazing that they still have all the excitement and vibrancy as when they were first written. James Bond is, of course, an iconic character thanks to the films, but that was not always the case (don't forget, the first Bond film, Doctor No, did not actually appear until 1962, so the strips pre-date them by around four years). The character has endured because of the strength of the writing in Ian Fleming's original books, and Fleming's strengths as a writer were echoed particularly by Jim Lawrence, who wrote the majority of the strips. The original artist for the strip was John McLusky, who adapted thirteen of Ian Fleming's James Bond novels or short stories. After McLusky left, Lawrence's strips were vividly brought to life by Russian-born artist Yaroslav Horak, who worked on the strip from 1966 to 1977, then for the Sunday Express and the Daily Star from 1977 to 1979, and again from 1983 to 1984. In total Horak worked on thirty-three James Bond comic strips and his style is perfectly suited to the genre. In 1982 McLusky returned to illustrate the James Bond strip, collaborating with writer Jim Lawrence to illustrate four new original James Bond stories.
This latest volume from Titan includes five strips: 'Flittermouse', 'Polestar', 'The Scent of Danger', 'Snake Goddess' and 'Double Eagle'. These strips were serialised in the Daily Star and abroad from 1983-4, and contain work from both McLusky and Horak. The action ranges from the Arctic to Australia and takes in murderous snakes, punk rock, sharks, rabid wolves, deadly sun-tan lotion, guns, explosions and, of course, lots of beautiful women! The action never lets up for a moment and these stories turned out to be the last of the Bond strips, ending the series in just as spectacular a fashion as it had begun more than twenty-five years earlier. It is particularly gratifying that this volume includes stories which never appeared in UK newspapers. A real five-star read and a great addition to the bookshelf.
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