James Bond 007
Colonel Sun

Authors: Kingsley Amis (writing as Robert Markham) and Jim Lawrence
Artist: Yaroslav Horak
Titan Books
RRP: 12.99
ISBN 1 84576 175 8
Available 23 December 2005

When three agents are killed in separate incidents involving animals, Bill Tanner suspects a connection. Bond's investigations lead him to Brazil and the mysterious Dr Cat, a brutal and deranged scientist who has broken away from Red China...

Though this collection takes its title from the comic-strip adaptation of Kingsley Amis' Bond novel, it also includes River of Death, the second of Jim Lawrence's wholly original Bond strips.

Like its predecessor, The Harpies, River of Death features some rather unlikely coincidences in the naming of certain characters. Once again, the villain's name provides Bond with vital clues: Dr Cat has two aliases, both of which relate to big cats. And the feline connection doesn't end there: the love interest, a Native American CIA agent, is named Kitty Redwing, though she has no connection with the villain beyond her pursuit of him.

With its Rio de Janeiro setting and the inclusion of a female CIA operative, this story pre-empts the movie Moonraker in both those respects. Unfortunately, Kitty proves not to be a terribly proficient agent. She admits to being "scared silly" of (the admittedly chillingly depicted) Dr Cat and a "prize idiot" for cracking under torture, and she happily defers to Bond as "the senior officer present", even though the two of them work for different agencies.

Lawrence also has a bit of trouble writing convincing dialogue for Bond. To me, the agent seems too common when he utters words such as "mate" and "luv". And artist Yaroslav Horak is not as good at drawing animals as he is at depicting people: watch out for his grinning crocodile on panel 1144.

Nevertheless, as with other Lawrence/Horak strips, this is an enjoyably hard-edged tale. The villain devises some truly horrific punishments for Bond and Kitty (though, as usual, their actual application is kept off the page).

When M is kidnapped from his country house, Bond must embark upon a desperate mission to save him. As his trail leads from London to Greece, the agent makes some unexpected alliances. But is M just bait to trap 007...?

The complex, action-packed and gritty plot of Kingsley Amis' novel Colonel Sun provides perfect source material for this newspaper strip adaptation.

Though the novelist's more explicit descriptions of sex are, not surprisingly, kept off the panels, Horak takes the opportunity to show more female flesh than usual, courtesy of Colonel Sun's "harem" girls, Doni and Luisa. Their outfits are so skimpy, they often reveal a bit of builder's bum!

Racist attitudes of the time are preserved in the use of the terms "yellow", "slant-eyed" and "Chink" to describe the Chinese, the latter of which is used by Bond himself.

Just as River of Death anticipates Moonraker, Colonel Sun pre-empts the movie version of The Spy Who Loved Me. Here, Bond joins forces with a female Russian agent (Ariadne Alexandrou - not actually a Russian but a Greek working for the USSR) to prevent a third party from provoking a devastating war. Judi Dench's M would later get kidnapped in the movie The World is Not Enough, while the villain's name went on to inspire the character of Colonel Moon in Die Another Day.

The strip also beats the movie-makers to it in another respect, by referring to the eponymous protagonist as "Ian Fleming's James Bond". This begins on panel 1359 - and about time too! Previously the strip's title had always read "James Bond by Ian Fleming", even when the stories were not based on Fleming novels.

Also including features on Kingsley Amis and the genesis of his Bond novel, as well as a 1989 interview with Jim Lawrence, Colonel Sun is another shining example of Lawrence and Horak's work.

Richard McGinlay

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