By Marty Mulrooney
The James Bond Omnibus – Volume 002 collects seven of Ian Fleming’s daily comic strips, originally printed in the Daily Express newspaper between 1964-1968. Based on the novels that inspired the movies, these comic strips adapted by Henry Gammidge and Jim Lawrence feature stylised black-and-white artwork by John McLusky (On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, You Only Live Twice) and Yaroslav Horak (The Man with the Golden Gun, The Living Daylights, Octopussy, The Hildebrand Rarity, The Spy Who Loved Me).
The James Bond Omnibus – Volume 002 offers a refreshing change of pace, especially when directly compared to the latest Bond films starring Daniel Craig as agent 007. A treasure trove for fans of the world-famous secret agent as Ian Fleming originally envisioned him, reading these comic strips immediately evokes a strong sense of nostalgia. Here, James Bond is a man who takes his women, drinking and fisticuffs in equal measure. Political correctness has been shot and thrown out of the window.
The stories contained within this omnibus are without a doubt entirely of their time. Those expecting the fast-paced, action-packed adventures Bond later came to be known for on-screen may well be left feeling disappointed. Although many of the elements shown within the films are all present and correct – globetrotting, shootouts, easy women, fast cars – these stories portray a James Bond who uses his brain – taking on multiple fake identities with heaps of charm – as well as his brawn. In many ways, these comic strips serve as a mash-up of the original novels and the earlier films, mixing Fleming’s stories with the ‘look’ of the movies. Indeed, Bond often looks suspiciously like his on-screen counterpart at the time of publication from story to story.
Each ‘strip’ contains three panels (although occasionally there will be two panels instead, one large, one small), each offering a surprising amount of text alongside the accompanying illustrations. There are four strips on each page and Titan Books seem to have reprinted them at their original size, ensuring that each panel is clear and easy to read. The artwork is defined by heavy blacks, with the pages themselves offering the white elements beneath. Although this seemingly causes some fine detail to be lost, it is an inherent fault of the strips’ newspaper origins and not a failing of this omnibus, which seems to have been printed as authentically as possible. If nothing else, The James Bond Omnibus – Volume 002 offers some gorgeous artwork.
Luckily, the stories themselves are fairly engaging too, if not a little dated overall. You Only Live Twice in particular often feels far-fetched and out-of-date, especially when Bond gets a hair cut and tan so he can look Japanese, before mounting an attack on the ‘Garden of Death’ owned by Ernst Stavro Blofeld. The later strips stand the test of time far better, with The Man with the Golden Gun the best of the bunch, seeing Bond travel to Jamaica to kill Francisco “Pistols” Scaramanga, a Cuban assassin who is believed to have killed several British secret agents. Surprisingly, the shortest strip, entitled The Living Daylights, is also the most poignant, with Bond on a mission to execute a top KGB assassin in cold blood. This a prime example of how a good story never truly ages.
In the end, whether you are a fan of Bond on page or screen, The James Bond Omnibus – Volume 002 is a highly recommended purchase. Some of the stories contained within are stronger than others, but all are worth reading and offer a fantastic insight into the James Bond of a world gone by. Sure, some aspects are dated but don’t let that put you off: this is a great book and the comic strips within have aged beautifully.
8 OUT OF 10