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Graphic Novel Review

Book Cover

James Bond 007
Shark Bait


Author: Jim Lawrence
Artists: Yaroslav Horak and Harry North
Titan Books
RRP: £12.99, US $19.95, Cdn $22.95
ISBN-13: 978 1 84576 591 0
ISBN-10: 1 84576 591 5
Available 25 January 2008

This graphic novel contains the newspaper strips The Xanadu Connection, Shark Bait and Doomcrack, the first two of which have never before been published in the UK. I’m surprised that the collection isn’t named after Doomcrack, as this is the longest of the three stories by a small margin, has the most “Bondian” title, is the best well known, and features a significant turning point for the series.

But I’m getting ahead of myself...

James Bond is sent behind communist lines to extract an undercover operative, Heidi Franz. Her intelligence reveals a plot to capture a Russian dissident and MI-6 informer codenamed “Marco Polo”. In an attempt to draw him out, the KGB targets his wife for capture...!

The first story is The Xanadu Connection (1978), which should not disappoint fans of double entendres and fantastic vehicles.

The innuendo comes thick and fast (oo-er) as Bond beds Heidi under the pretext of, ahem, debriefing her. “So open up, luv,” says Bond, “and do let me help you get everything off your chest!” “I’m all ears,” he later adds, to which Heidi replies, “Ach, ja? That’s not quite how I’d have described you!” Bond also complements a Tartar girl called Ylang on the beauty of “All three!”, when she rescues him, topless, carrying a knife (there are a lot of bare breasts in this story). The strip ends with a double entendre from Miss Moneypenny that pre-empts Tomorrow Never Dies: “Research, he calls it! An invaluable opportunity to familiarise himself with the Tartar tongue!”

The fantastic vehicle in question is the Super-Sapper, a burrowing machine very like the Mole in Thunderbirds. In a rare continuity gaffe by artist Yaroslav Horak, near the end of the narrative the Super-Sapper suddenly changes the angle of its resting position for the purposes of the plot.

Writer Jim Lawrence makes interesting use of the historical figures Kublai Khan and Marco Polo, and Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s poem “Kubla Khan”, naming his Asian villain and his archaeologist quarry after them.

There’s much to dig in The Xanadu Connection.



MI-6’s top agent plunges into the depths of the Australian ocean in search of a supercomputer that could tip the balance of the Cold War! But with a deadly KGB assassin on his tail, as well as a sea full of hungry sharks, how long can Bond avoid the jaws of death...?

Shark Bait (1978-9) begins and ends in the sea, with Bond being menaced by a great white shark. This is possibly an attempt to cash in on the popularity on the Jaws movies (Jaws 2 was released in 1978), though the search for a tactical device lost at sea pre-empts For Your Eyes Only (1981) to an extent. These excursions beneath the waves involve some neat underwater effects for bubbles and blood, courtesy of Horak.

However, the middle part of this tale is an unusual and interesting character piece, as 007 attempts to turn the loyalties of Russian agent Katya Orlova (great name) by taking her on “walkabout” in the Australian Outback (which is Bond’s first visit to that continent, I believe). Katya switches from trying to kill Bond to falling into his arms rather too swiftly for my liking, but this misstep by Lawrence is more than made up for by later developments. Remarkably, in both this and the previous strip, 007 actually plays hard to get with certain ladies.

Shark Bait would prove to be the last James Bond newspaper strip for two years, but it’s great to finally get a chance to see it.



Bond escorts a woman called Lilian Miklos from Egypt to London. She is the representative of Dr Vlad Sinescu, who has developed a weapon known as Doomcrack, which can remotely kill a human being leaving no visible wounds or destroy vehicles or even entire buildings...!

Doomcrack (1981) is a peculiar Bond strip, in a couple of ways.

First of all, though it marks the beginning of a new series, as well as the strip’s transfer to the pages of the Daily Star, it actually draws a line under previous stories, as we witness the demise of Madam Spectra and her branch of SPECTRE. This was probably an effort to tie the newspaper strip in with the John Gardner novels of the time: the following year would see the reintroduction of SPECTRE, with a different leader, in Gardner’s For Special Services. The next strip, The Paradise Plot, would introduce the Gardner character Q’ute. Therefore, I would place Doomcrack shortly after Shark Bait, before the two-year gap rather than after it, thus allowing for a reasonable breather before the “shock” return of SPECTRE in For Special Services.

The art is also unusual. Guest artist Harry North’s work is arguably more realistic than Horak’s or John McLusky’s. The likenesses of the regular characters are clearly based upon the actors who played their counterparts in the movies, so M resembles Bernard Lee, Q looks like Desmond Llewellyn and Bond is a hybrid of Sean Connery and Roger Moore, with Connery’s eyebrows and mouth and Moore’s hair and jaw line. North’s style is decidedly cartoony, though, reminiscent of a Mad magazine spoof, particularly during the strip’s sillier moments, such as when Bond tails a suspect with the aid of an olfactory-augmenting false moustache. Indeed, the artist is perhaps best known for his work for Mad, including a parody of Moonraker, entitled “Moneyraker” (Mad magazine #213).

However, Doomcrack also contains some excellent action scenes, including a tense encounter between Bond and a hijacker on board an airliner in the opening sequence, a gritty night-time shootout on a construction site, and threats to international landmarks that the movie-makers of the time would have found hard to match.

On balance, this is a cracking yarn.



The collection also includes an introduction by Caroline Bliss (Moneypenny in the Timothy Dalton Bond films) and the concluding part of a feature on American Bond comics, covering the Dark Horse and Topps publications of the 1990s.

Shark Bait is well worth hunting down.

Richard McGinlay

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