James Bond 007
On Her Majesty's Secret Service

Authors: Ian Fleming and Henry Gammidge
Artist: John McLusky
Titan Books
RRP 11.99
ISBN 1 84023 674 4
Available 23 August 2004

Following a fruitless search for Ernst Stavro Blofeld and his sinister organisation SPECTRE, James Bond finally enjoys a change of fortune. He finds himself ingratiated with the Mafia, back on Blofeld's trail and in love with a beautiful woman...

The first two volumes of Titan's reprints of the Daily Express strip cartoon seemed to be in the process of working their way through the strip's third series of adventures. For some reason, though, volume three steps back to the second series, which comprised Henry Gammidge's adaptations of the Ian Fleming novels On Her Majesty's Secret Service and You Only Live Twice.

But never mind, because OHMSS is probably the strongest story that Fleming ever wrote (as actor George Lazenby acknowledges in his introduction to this collection). Gammidge wisely remains extremely faithful to the Fleming original, just as the makers of the 1969 movie would ultimately choose to do. As a result (as Paul Simpson comments in his own introductory text), some of John McLusky's artwork looks almost like storyboards for the eventual film. In particular, the character of Marc-Ange Draco looks remarkably like Gabriele Ferzetti, the actor who would play him on the big screen.

One aspect of Fleming's novel that Gammidge actually manages to improve upon is the absence of Tracy during the Gloria Klub segment. The writer provides a very good reason for this, with Tracy checking into a clinic of her own.

Something that the movie has over both the strip and the novel, however, is 007's discovery of the true purpose behind Blofeld's programming of the Gloria Klub girls. The strip slows down considerably when M calls in the scientists Franklin and Leathers to solve this puzzle, whereas in the film Bond finds most of this stuff out while in the field. An additional storytelling problem is that Gammidge is forced to rely on a lot of description and "thinks" panels near the beginning of the story in order to convey Bond's depth of feeling for Tracy.

However, these are relatively minor points that only slightly detract from an otherwise excellent yarn.

To get 007 out of a rut, M sends him on an apparently hopeless mission to gain access to the Japanese government's enviably efficient decoding device, Magic 44. To do so, Bond must brave the mysterious Dr Shatterhand and his "Garden of Death"...

OHMSS and You Only Live Twice provide interesting grounds for comparison and contrast. OHMSS preceded Twice in the novel series, but this order was reversed when the books were adapted for the big screen. Whereas the OHMSS film stayed faithful to the plot of the book, the movie version of Twice only retained its Japanese setting, some of its characters and a few other ideas.

Unlike the movie, the strip serialisation of You Only Live Twice sticks fairly closely to Fleming's original story. Film fans may recognise the names of the characters "Dikko" Henderson (though here he is an Australian), the Ama diving girl Kissy Suzuki and "Tiger" Tanaka, with his ninja training school, but don't expect any space capsules or hollowed-out volcanoes to show up in this adaptation! Having said that, Gammidge dispatches the villain in a more spectacular fashion than Fleming did in the book, and he tightens up the plot by dispensing with some of the novelist's background detail concerning Japanese culture, including Bond's haiku.

I must say that I don't find John McLusky's art to be as crisp or clean as that of his successor, Yaroslav Horak. Nevertheless, this remains a commendable collection.

Richard McGinlay

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