James Bond 007
Trouble Spot

Author: Jim Lawrence
Artist: Yaroslav Horak
Titan Books
RRP: 12.99
ISBN-13: 978 1 84576 269 8
ISBN-10: 1 84576 269 X
Available 22 September 2006

When Bond is assigned to locate a mysterious and valuable box that belonged to a dead man, Mike Channing, he soon finds himself caught in a deadly race against the nefarious Baron Sharck. Can 007 trust the dead man's girlfriend, the savvy blonde Gretta, and persuade Channing's previously blinded wife that he is her husband...?

The graphic novel collects the original newspaper strips Trouble Spot, Isle of Condors, The League of Vampires and Die With My Boots On. Once again, Titan has not chosen the most Bondian-sounding title as the name for the collection. I think the title Die With My Boots On is much more Fleming-style. It's not as if the company has to select the title of the first strip in the collection. It didn't with Dr No or Colonel Sun.

Trouble Spot is, in fact, a tenuous title at best, presumably referring to the birthmark by which Bond has to identify Mike Channing's widow, Folly. How convenient that she is staying at a nudist resort at the time.

Another unlikely plot contrivance is the fact that Bond is able to pose as the recently blind (but now sighted) woman's husband without her noticing. Even assuming that his imitation of Channing's voice is perfect, wouldn't Folly know Mike's physical likeness intimately by touch? Perhaps, having been only temporarily blinded, Folly's other senses are not as well honed as those of a long-term permanently blind person would be.

The chapter opener information, written by James Wheatley, Matthias Garretway and James Page is incorrect in its statement that M does not appear in this story. In fact, he briefly appears on the final page. This error seems to have been transcribed from Andy Lane and Paul Simpson's reference guide The Bond Files.

If you can turn a blind eye (excuse the pun) to these shortcomings, this is a very enjoyable strip. Writer Jim Lawrence throws us straight into the gritty action and intrigue, with Bond meeting a mysterious visitor and being held at gunpoint even before the end of the first page. From then on, the excitement rarely lets up. Watch out for a movie-style quip from Bond following a car chase. A blinder.

Now there's a thought: maybe Blind Spot would have been a more suitable title.

While driving through Italy, Bond almost literally runs into a naked female horse rider escaping from her captors. He realises that this "Lady Godiva" may be connected with the recent disappearance of another woman, Ghislaine Perault, and his investigations lead him to a training camp on Isola dei Condori - the Isle of Condors...

At the beginning of Isle of Condors, Bond seems rather dim when he is confronted by the naked escapee of an apparent abduction. Rather than drive her to safety, he instead returns her to the scene of the alleged crime, where he is served drugged wine. However, it soon becomes clear that this is all a cunning plan (well, apart from the getting drugged bit, presumably) as part of an ongoing investigation.

It is interesting to observe how these strips move with the times in which they were produced (1972). In common with the movie Live and Let Die, which would be released in cinemas the following year, this story features the medium's first instance of a black love interest for Bond. Crystal Kelly closely resembles Rosie Carver from Live and Let Die, though in fact she gets an even stronger role than Rosie.

Isle of Condors also covers some territory previously explored in On Her Majesty's Secret Service (the hypnotic indoctrination of a group of young women), but otherwise this is a great story. It's certainly not "strictly for the birds" - as Bond declares in another of his trademark quips about his enemies' downfall.

A vampire cult is spreading across Europe, attracting young people with its wild parties. On Corsica, 007 battles against one of the cultists - whose bite can initiate or kill - before he is summoned back to England, where the wife of shipping magnate Xerxes Xenophanos appears to have been bitten on the throat...

The similarities to Live and Let Die continue in The League of Vampires, which involves a seemingly supernatural cult being used for nefarious ends. Though the title and synopsis may sound far-fetched, in fact there's a rational explanation for the "vampires", who wear false fangs containing hypodermic needles that can deliver hypnotic or fatal doses of drugs.

Following on from the presence of Crystal Kelly in Isle of Condors, a further sign of the times is the increasingly explicit nudity of these strips (never was that word been more appropriate). The women in these stories seem to have almost as much trouble keeping their clothes on as the Daily Mirror's Jane or The Sun's Axa. The League of Vampires also features disrobing at a vampire cult ceremony. However, artist Yaroslav Horak keeps the nakedness reasonably tasteful, in the proper Bond style, by always concealing the naughty bits (just about) with shadows, foliage and other objects. Even Bond does his share of stripping, getting his kit off at the ceremony in this story and at the nudist resort in Trouble Spot.

Fang-tastic stuff.

A new painkilling chemical, Nopane, is being exploited as a recreational drug, and various arms of the American Mafia are fighting between themselves to obtain its secrets. Bond is sent to New York to rescue Posy Gee, the niece of the scientist who developed the drug, from Mafia boss Benny "the Barber" Pignelli...

In Die With My Boots On, 007 also works with the blonde girlfriend of a missing man, just as he did in Trouble Spot. In common with Gretta in that previous strip, Voyle's loyalties are open to question.

The tale opens in spectacular style, with Bond smashing though a high-rise window on a steel girder - a scene that would not disgrace the pre-credits sequence of a movie.

After that, though, the story becomes rather less involving. This unusually short strip feels rather rushed, with little room for character development, and some of 007's dialogue is conspicuously bad. He sounds like some kind of hippie or jive talker as he utters phrases such as "You dig this sort of thing, don't you?" and "It can groove you out of this world on absolutely cosmic highs!"

This is certainly not a cosmic high upon which to end an otherwise splendid collection - which also contains the first instalment of a feature about the Bond girls, comparing and contrasting their various depictions in the books, strips and movies.

Richard McGinlay

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