The cover of the third volume of Titan Books' reprints of the James Bond comic strip bills him as "The World's Most Famous Secret Agent" — hard to argue. Bond has been present in every form of media for close to six decades now, and perhaps one of his most overlooked exposures was the daily comic strip which ran from 1958 to 1983, starting with adaptations of Fleming's novels and segueing into all-original stories. Volume 3 features the beginning of writer J.D. Lawrence's run as well as the switching of artist from John McClusky to the immensely talented Yaroslav Horak. This edition features seven story arcs, all of them with the spark and wit and brutality that a fan of Fleming's work would come to expect.
Lawrence and Horak's collection is commendable for its sheer amount of information — while these days newspaper strips are about the gag, each installment in this collection has a clear contribution. A strip removed on its own would still clue the reader into what event preceded or was underway. Granted, due to the nature of space there is a lot of dialogue and captioning, but in the scheme of the stories they work wonderfully. These could be fascinating pieces of prose, but Horak's art is kinetic and breathtakingly detailed. It's even more impressive when you realize the timetable: he was delivering this caliber of work daily for considerable periods of time.
These stories are also notable for being closer to the novelized James Bond — while the film version is recognized as a suave ladies' man, the books and these strips have Bond as a bit of a brute. He solves a lot of his problems and obstacles with violence and shooting (as all men would, given the opportunity) and the sheer amount of drinking he does is admirable. There's not one strip where someone isn't offered a drink or slugs one back. His ingenuity is also present in some of the most fun and goonish ways, such as when he defeats the villain of "River of Death" by cross-body throwing him into one of his henchman, like the Ricky Steamboat of MI-6 before that was a thing.
And the ideas! In this volume Bond tangles with a team of international female thieves who have righteous jetpack catsuits, a cruel geneticist knows as The Jaguar who wants to get his Moreau on and an atomic zeppelin that gets highjacked by agents of S.P.E.C.T.R.E., which takes WAY too long to come into the picture. Lawrence's devotion to continuity and his eye for detail are impressive: he ties together threads and characters and even has recurring appearances which give genuine life to this universe he's working in. Bond suffers for his actions — he's not indestructible, and these pages find him taking some insane punishment from panel to panel, all vivaciously rendered by Horak. It's a testament to his strength how vivid and fluid the entire book looks, even with its smaller art size, to the point that it would feel detrimental with the addition of color.
This edition is a great value at $25 — the seven strips compromise roughly three years' worth of stories, not a weak one in the bunch, but considering the word omnibus is printed up front, some additional material would be nice and not too unexpected. Considering the caliber of work that's contained within, my curiosity was peaked to know more about the creative team and their endeavors, and I was disappointed to not find any contained within. It's a minor quibble, as the stories that Lawrence and Horak collaborated on are exciting, intrigue-doused capers with cleverly plotted arcs and genuine consequence. Some of them are quite grim, and there's an actual air of danger — Bond might actually not make it through unscathed, and often he does not! Volume 3 is a great addition to any collection, as it marks the beginning of the original stories in the strip. If you own the previous ones, then it's a nice continuation, and if not it's a great way to delve into what other writers did with the world of 007, in many cases surpassing even the originals. James Bond is the world's most famous agent, so it's only fitting that he be the star of one of print's most exciting strips.
Rafael Gaitan was born in 1985, but he belongs to the '70s. He is a big fan of onomatopoeia, being profane and spelling words right on the first try. Rafael has a hilariously infrequent blog and writes love letters to inanimate objects as well as tweets of whiskey and the mysteries of the heart. He ain't got time to bleed.