By Marty Mulrooney
The James Bond Omnibus – Volume 004 collects nine original James Bond daily comic strips for the very first time. Published by Titan Books (and originally printed in the Daily Express newspaper between 1971-1975), each comic strip is written by Jim Lawrence and features the black-and-white artwork of Yaroslav Horak. The stories told include: Trouble Spot, Isle of Condors, The League of Vampires, Die With My Boots On, The Girl Machine, Beware of Butterflies, The Nevsky Nude, The Phoenix Project and The Black Ruby Caper.
Alternative Magazine Online reviewed The James Bond Omnibus – Volume 002 in 2011, describing it as “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.”
The James Bond Omnibus – Volume 004 offers more of the same, although this time all of the stories contained within are original adventures thought up by Jim Lawrence, rather than being ‘based on the novels that inspired the movies’ as with Volume 002. Sadly, this does result in a rather uneven collection of stories at times. For example, Isle of Condors is classic 007 – beautiful women, exotic locations and a villain with his own deadly island. Niccolo Uccelli’s preferred method of disposing with his enemies? Using a target scent and blowing a whistle, which then causes his gigantic condors to descend with hunger in their eyes…
The League of Vampires, on the other hand, seems both improbable and dated. Bond is drawn into a plot involving a ‘Vampire Cult’, where the members wear fangs that can deliver poison and hypnotic drugs. The Nevsky Nude is even sillier – the story revolves around a ghostly knight with glowing armour. Such storylines haven’t stood the test of time particularly well and clash with the modern-day perception of Bond (and even with Ian Fleming’s original novels).
It is also worth noting that every single story is oversaturated with naked women, even when it doesn’t particularly make sense. A woman is tied up in a room? Her clothes are removed. A female spy parachutes from a plane? She does so naked. After a while it can become a bit distracting – it makes the female characters seem very one-dimensional, especially when they all continually throw themselves at 007. Every story ends with Bond getting the girl and some form of double entendre.
The James Bond Omnibus – Volume 004 is at its best when it sticks to good old-fashioned storytelling. Beware of the Butterfly begins with Bond teaming up with fellow Double-O agent Suzi Kew on her first “kill” assignment. The assassination is very well-played – and the villain of the story, Attila, head of the Butterfly Espionage Network, is suitably evil. Despite these original stories by Jim Lawrence failing to live up to those written by Fleming himself (or indeed those written previously by Lawrence in comic strip form and based on Fleming’s original 007 books), the moody black-and-white artwork of Yaroslav Horak will always hold the reader’s attention. This is certainly an enjoyable collection – but even the staunchest James Bond fan would be forced to admit that the earlier comic strips told much more memorable tales of espionage and adventure.
7 OUT OF 10