James Bond Omnibus 003 (Titan Books)

007’s comic strip life expands to original adventures in this latest collection.

 

 

 

272 pgs. B&W; $19.95
(W: Jim Lawrence; A: Yaroslav Horak)
 
I’m a huge James Bond fan. I own all the movies, I’ve read plenty of the books, and I’ve played almost all of the games, even the awful ones. While the casual fan might assume these are some of the only media to feature Great Britain’s greatest secret agent, Ian Fleming’s character has starred in many more adventures in his almost 60-year career, including daily newspaper strips.
 
Titan Books has been reprinting Bond’s lesser-known comic strip adventures in paperback omnibus form, most recently culminating in a third volume. The James Bond Omnibus 003 features seven story arcs worth of daily 007 comic strips published between 1968 and 1971, and it’s the first in the series to feature stories not based on previously existing Bond books or films.
 
Artist Yaroslav Horak’s art is ideal for the demands of a three-panel daily strip; simple and consistent enough to produce a few panels on tight deadline, while clean enough to tell what’s going on most of the time. What is most interesting, however, is how writer Jim Lawrence adapt 007’s exploits to the comic medium.
 
It’s a task Lawrence had mixed success with. Some of the story arcs feature all the trappings fans except of MI-6’s top secret agent — beautiful women, exotic locales, convoluted plots by vile villains to plunge the free world into warfare and ruin — while others are so hokey I expected M to contact Bond by lighting the 007 Signal into the foggy London night. In some outings, Bond battles robots built to steal company secrets or a sinister toymaker’s remote-controlled planes repurposed to carry out assassinations. There are a few missions in which Bond doesn’t even leave the UK. He also foils the hijacking of a nuclear-powered blimp off of a tip from a TV psychic and decides whether he can trust an old girlfriend-turned-traitor by flipping a coin. Seriously.
 
Corny plots aside, there are also a number of casually sexist and racist remarks strewn throughout some of the strips, giving us a glimpse of the publication era that’s rather cringe-worthy when cast in a modern light. Promiscuous women are disregarded or shamed while Bond is painted as a hero despite engaging in just as many casual relationships, while the Chinese villains throughout the strip are often identified by facial characteristics. In a sense, it’s nice to see Titan Books publishing the original, unedited strips — allowing for discourse — but it is still surprising to see that such things were perfectly suitable for publication in major newspapers just 40 years ago.
 
This third volume of the Bond Omnibus series is a mixed bag. Some stories are interesting and grand enough that they could have made for a legitimate Bond film treatment while others falter awkwardly into Adam West territory. Despite its flaws, however, these classic strips have a place on any hardcore Bond fan’s bookshelf. | Dean Asher

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