James Bond 007
Dr No

Authors: Ian Fleming and Henry Gammidge
Artist: John McLusky
Titan Books
RRP: 10.99
ISBN 1 84576 089 1
Available 23 May 2005

James Bond assumes the identity of a diamond smuggler in order to investigate and close down a pipeline operated by the deadly Spangled Mob...

I'm not sure why this book isn't called Diamonds Are Forever, because this story appears first and runs for longer than the other two in this volume, From Russia With Love and Dr No. Presumably Dr No was chosen as the main title because of the greater popularity of both the novel and film of the same name.

Despite - or perhaps because of - its longer duration, Diamonds is a rather plotless affair. The train track sequence feels as though it is the final act, and then so does the subsequent Queen Elizabeth bit, but neither of them are. Maybe I'm just allowing my knowledge of the movie plot to influence me.

As this faithful adaptation shows, the film retained only small elements of Fleming's original novel, such as the dentist's scene, Tiffany's underwear-clad introduction, the mud baths, and the aforementioned Queen Elizabeth sequence. All three stories in this collection would later became movies starring Sean Connery, though in the case of the other two there are few major differences between novel/strip and film.

The Russian secret service SMERSH sets a trap for Bond, using as bait a cipher machine and a beautiful woman, who claims to be in love with him...

From Russia With Love marks writer Henry Gammidge's final use of first-person narration by Bond. This is a good thing, because the agent often conveys information and viewpoints that he couldn't possibly be privy to.

Meanwhile, artist John McLusky betrays a few limitations of his own in terms of visualising characters. His Kerim Bey looks not unlike Colombo in the subsequent Risico, while his Rosa Klebb resembles Irma Bunt in On Her Majesty's Secret Service. However, his Donovan Grant shows how perfectly cast Robert Shaw was in the movie.

There are a fair few goofs in this adaptation. In panel 513 Kerim recalls Tatiana's whitened knuckles, even though she was wearing gloves at the time. In panel 551, one of Bond's speech balloons points to Tatiana. And Gammidge seems unsure whether the villain is called Rosa Klebb or Rosa Krebs.

Those of you who noticed that Titan's recent presentation of Goldfinger was missing a couple of opening panels will be pleased to see that panel 489, which follows up on events in Diamonds Are Forever and was omitted from some syndicated versions of this strip, is present and correct here.

Much of Fleming's characterisation and background information has been ditched in this abridged adaptation. However, the charm of Kerim Bey shines through, and all in all this is a very enjoyable strip.

When two agents disappear in Jamaica, Bond is sent to investigate, and faces everything from poisoned nectarines to killer centipedes...

The very straightforward plot of Dr No lends itself well to the comic strip medium. Not surprisingly, though, Honeychile Rider is not naked, as she so memorably was in Fleming's original book, when Bond first beholds her.

The age and rarity of these strips show in the quality of their reproduction, particularly during Dr No. As well as the loss of clarity to McLusky's artwork, some text panels are so faded that they are difficult to read. I guess that can't be helped when Titan is forced to rely on scanning from old newspapers or even duplicates of old newspapers. However, some of the unsightly ink blobs that appear could have been cleaned up quite easily using Photoshop.

This volume also includes the final part of Paul Simpson's Bond in Books article, which races through all the Gardner and Benson novels in just one instalment. More time could have been spent on these authors over forthcoming volumes. In addition, there is a guide to the different 00 agents and regional stations that have been mentioned over the years. Unfortunately, a couple of stations (S in Rio De Janeiro and A in Australia) are missing from the accompanying map. There's also an analysis of how Bond has developed in different and often divergent ways across the various media he has appeared in.

Entertaining though these adaptations are, I must confess that I am most eagerly awaiting the wholly original strips, the first of which, The Harpies, can be seen in the next volume, The Spy Who Loved Me...

Richard McGinlay

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