Modesty Blaise: The Killing Game


By Peter O’Donnell & Enric Badia Romero (Titan Books)
ISBN: 978-1-78565-300-1

Win’s Christmas Gift Recommendation: Blockbuster Derring-do and the Perfect Postprandial Tonic… 9/10

Infallible super-criminals Modesty Blaise and her lethally charming, compulsively platonic, equally adept partner Willie Garvin gained fearsome reputations heading underworld gang The Network. They then retired young, rich and healthy.

With honour intact and their hands relatively clean, they cut themselves off completely from careers where they made all the money they would ever need and far too many enemies: a situation exacerbated by their heartfelt conviction that killing was only ever to be used as a last resort.

When devious British Spymaster Sir Gerald Tarrant sought them out, they were slowly dying of boredom in England. The wily old bird offered them a chance to have fun, get back into harness and do a bit of good in the world. They jumped at his offer and have been cleaning up the dregs of society in their own unique manner ever since …

From that tenuous beginning in ‘La Machine’ (see Modesty Blaise: the Gabriel Set-Up) the dynamic duo went on to crush the world’s vilest villains and most macabre monsters in a never-ending succession of tense suspense and inspirational action for more than half a century. And now this final 30th collected paperback album completes their astounding run of newspaper strip escapades leaving us dedicated devotees delighted and simultaneously bereft…

The inseparable associates debuted in The Evening Standard on 13th May 1963 and over the passing decades went on to star in some of the world’s most memorable crime fiction, all in approximately three panels a day.

Creators Peter O’Donnell & Jim Holdaway (who had previously collaborated on Romeo Brown – a lost strip classic just as deserving of its own archive albums) crafted a timeless treasure trove of brilliant graphic escapades until the illustrator’s tragic early death in 1970, whereupon Spanish artist Enric Badia Romero (and occasionally John Burns, Neville Colvin and Pat Wright) assumed the art reins, taking the partners-in-peril to even greater heights.

The series has been syndicated world-wide and Modesty has starred in numerous prose novels, short-story collections, several films, a TV pilot, a radio play, an original American graphic novel from DC, a serial on BBC Radio 4 and in nearly one hundred comic adventures until the strip’s conclusion in 2001 with the trio of titanic tales collected in this volume.

The pictorial exploits comprise a broad blend of hip adventuring lifestyle and cool capers; combining espionage, crime, intrigue and even – now and again – plausibly intriguing sci fi and supernaturally-tinged horror genre fare, with ever-competent Modesty and Willie canny, deadly, yet all-too-fallibly human defenders of the helpless and avengers of the wronged…

Reproduced in stark and stunning monochrome – as is only right and fitting – Titan Books’ superb and scrupulously chronological serial re-presentations of the ultimate cool trouble-shooters conclude here, with O’Donnell & Romero offering three last masterpieces of mood, mystery, mayhem and macabre mirth. The high-octane drama is preceded by a brace of preambles: affecting reminiscence ‘Modesty and Me’ from O’Donnell’s grandson Paul Michael and the true secret of writing the perfect comic strip in the author’s own ‘All in the Mind’, penned before his death in 2010.

The pulse-pounding pictorial perils premiere with ‘The Last Aristocrat’ (originally running in The Evening Standard from December 16th 1999-19th May 2000), as old – and mostly unwanted – acquaintance Guido the Jinx embroils Willie, Sir Gerald and Modesty in his last journalistic scoop.

Sadly, the stakes this time are terrifyingly high, as a former criminal rival returns selling grotesque bacterial weapons of mass destruction forcing the dynamic duo to infiltrate an island fortress to prevent a disastrous terrorist coup…

As ever each tale is introduced by a connected celebrity: Daphne Alexander who plays Modesty in the BBC radio series adds her thoughts to the first and final adventures whilst eponymous central story ‘The Killing Game’ (22nd May June-October 17th) benefits from the insights of Radio Drama Producer Kate MCall.

Here Modesty and Willie are abducted from an innocent British Church Fete by a cabal of ultra-rich, exceedingly jaded “sportsmen” (and woman), intent on spicing up their annual safari by including the proverbial Most Dangerous Game on their private tropical preserve and in their sights…

Marooned in New Guinea, our heroes experience a debilitating setback when they find a stray teenager and her newborn baby obliviously squatting in the killing fields, but as always, Modesty and Willie are up to the challenge and soon turn predators into prey…

The themes shift to criminal skulduggery and doomsday cults – with just a hint of bloody vengeance – in ‘The Zombie’ (October 10th 2000 to April 11th 2001) as an old associate from Modesty’s Network days is kidnapped for use as leverage…

What seems to be a simple turf war between gangs squabbling for markets get decidedly nasty and strange as the kidnappers are revealed as adherents of computer pioneer Professor Nicomede Katris, whose dream is to replace all the world’s fallible, venal governments with an incorruptible super-computer of his own design.

He knows he’s right: after all, his years of programming his doctrines have transformed his own daughter Leda into a coldly logical killing machine and ideal tool of societal transformation.

The wily Prof only ever made two mistakes: ordering his human zombie to guard empathic, charming abductee Danny Chavasse and presuming he could extrapolate and predict the actions of Modesty Blaise and Willie Garvin when they inevitably come for their friend…

These are incomparable capers crafted by brilliant creators at the peak of their powers; revelling in the sheer perfection of an iconic creation. Startling shock and suspense-stuffed escapades packed with sleek sex appeal, dry wit, terrific tension and explosive action, these stories grow more appealing with every rereading and never fail to deliver maximum impact and total enjoyment.

And, hopefully, now that the entire saga has been compiled, we can soon expect sturdy hardback deluxe collections in the manner of the companion James Bond volumes…
Modesty Blaise © 2017 Associated Newspapers/Solo Syndication.

Modesty Blaise: The Murder Frame


By Peter O’Donnell & Enric Badia Romero (Titan Books)
ISBN: 978-1-78329-859-4

Win’s Christmas Gift Recommendation: Blockbuster Derring-do and the Perfect Postprandial Tonic… 9/10

Infallible super-criminals Modesty Blaise and her lethally adept, knife-throwing, compulsively platonic partner Willie Garvin gained fearsome reputations heading underworld gang The Network. They then retired young, rich and healthy.

With honour intact and their hands relatively clean, they cut themselves off completely from careers where they made all the money they would ever need and far too many enemies: a situation exacerbated by their heartfelt conviction that killing was only ever to be used as a last resort.

When devious British Spymaster Sir Gerald Tarrant sought them out, they were slowly dying of boredom in England. The wily old bird offered them a chance to have fun, get back into harness and do a bit of good in the world. They jumped at his offer and have been cleaning up the dregs of society in their own unique manner ever since …

From that tenuous beginning in ‘La Machine’ (see Modesty Blaise: the Gabriel Set-Up) the dynamic duo went on to crush the world’s vilest villains and most macabre monsters in a never-ending succession of tense suspense and inspirational action for more than half a century…

The inseparable associates debuted in The Evening Standard on 13th May 1963 and over the passing decades went on to star in some of the world’s most memorable crime fiction, all in approximately three panels a day.

Creators Peter O’Donnell & Jim Holdaway (who had previously collaborated on Romeo Brown – a lost strip classic equally deserving of its own archive albums) produced a timeless treasure trove of brilliant graphic escapades until the illustrator’s tragic early death in 1970, whereupon Spanish artist Enric Badia Romero (and occasionally John Burns, Neville Colvin and Pat Wright) assumed the art reins, taking the partners-in-peril to even greater heights.

The series has been syndicated world-wide and Modesty has starred in numerous prose novels and short-story collections, several films, a TV pilot, a radio play, an original American graphic novel from DC and nearly one hundred comic strip adventures until the strip’s conclusion in 2001.

The serial exploits are a broad blend of hip adventuring lifestyle and cool capers; combining espionage, crime, intrigue and even – now and again – plausibly intriguing sci fi and supernaturally tinged horror genre fare, with ever-competent Modesty and Willie canny, deadly, yet all-too-fallibly human defenders of the helpless and avengers of the wronged…

Reproduced in stark and stunning monochrome – as is only right and fitting – Titan Books’ superb and scrupulously chronological serial re-presentations of the ultimate cool trouble-shooters resume here, with O’Donnell & Romero offering four more masterpieces of mood, mystery and mayhem only pausing for effusive Introduction ‘Meeting Modesty’: from crime author Rebecca Chance (AKA Lauren Henderson; Bad Brides, Killer Heels, Jane Austin’s Guide to Dating) who compares the prose perils with the aforementioned strip sagas.

With Chance adding a prologue to each of the stunning strips which follow, the pictorial perils premiere with ‘The Murder Frame’ (originally seen in The Evening Standard from January 6th to June 6th 1997), wherein Modesty and Willie are drawn into a Machiavellian war of wits with a psychopathic old adversary who turns Garvin’s very public minor spat with a local property developer into an unassailable case of murder most foul.

Happily, Willie has lots of friends on both sides of the law and the stitch-up unravels after Modesty teams up with police Chief Inspector Brook to see justice done and the real killer caught…

The tone shifts to electrifying espionage and bloody vengeance for ‘Fraser’s Story’ (9th June – November 3rd) as Tarrant’s placidly, unflappable aide goes off the grid in pursuit of a British traitor-turned-Russian Mafia boss hiding out in Panama.

Victor Randle sold out his country and caused the death of 107 British agents – including Fraser’s only love – and is smart enough to know that Fraser is on his trail. In fact he’s counting on it and has creepy brainwashing genius Dr. Yago ready to pick the would-be avenger’s mind dry of every profitable secret it contains – especially as Victor currently possesses the only other thing the British agent still cares about…

He’s also smart enough to have Fraser’s friends Modesty Blaise and Willie Garvin murdered before they can interfere, but tragically not efficient enough to double check that his attempts have actually succeeded…

A startling glimpse into Modesty’s childhood days underpins ‘Tribute of the Pharaohs’ (November 4th 1997 to April 3rd 1998), also revealing Willie’s ultimate nemesis as the strident martinet who ran the orphanage he grew up in. Their reunion on the burning sands of the Bayouda desert near Khartoum also involves brutal bandit lord Mr. J who believes the draconian Miss Prendergast has knowledge of a vast horde of Egyptian gold…

When he kidnaps and tortures the old biddy, Willie and Modesty teach the sadistic thug a lasting lesson before uncovering a treasure and laying a ghost that has haunted Blaise for most of her life…

Wrapping up this trove of titanic tales is a traumatic exploration of the modern slave trade which sees Willie’s teen protégé Sam head out to Thailand as part of a mixed judo team. Sadly her youth, looks and bearing make her the perfect target for human traffickers Rosie Ling and Mr. Nagle-Green who boldly fake her death in broad daylight before stashing her on their ship full of ‘The Special Orders’ (April 6th to September 4th 1998) for rich and ruthless men…

Having been schooled by Garvin and Modesty, Sam is savvy enough to get off a message to the already suspicious (and en route) duo and takes matters into her own hands to rescue the girls. All she has to do is get them all off the ship, hole up in a suitable defensible position and keep safe until the enraged and remorseless cavalry arrives…

These are incomparable capers crafted by brilliant creators at the peak of their powers; revelling in the sheer perfection of an iconic creation. Startling shock and suspense-stuffed escapades packed with sleek sex appeal, dry wit, terrific tension and explosive action, these stories grow more appealing with every rereading and never fail to deliver maximum impact and total enjoyment.
Modesty Blaise © 2016 Associated Newspapers/Solo Syndication.

Modesty Blaise: Ripper Jax


By Peter O’Donnell & Enric Badia Romero (Titan Books)
ISBN: 978-1-78329-858-7

Modesty Blaise and her lethally adept, knife-throwing, compulsively platonic partner Willie Garvin gained fearsome reputations as infallible super-criminals heading underworld gang The Network before retiring young, rich and healthy. With honour intact and their hands relatively clean, they cut themselves off completely from careers where they made all the money they would ever need and far too many enemies – a situation exacerbated by their heartfelt conviction that killing was only ever to be used as a last resort.

When devious British Spymaster Sir Gerald Tarrant sought them out they were slowly dying of boredom in England. The wily old bird offered them a chance to have fun, get back into harness and do a bit of good in the world. They jumped at his offer and have been cleaning up the dregs of society in their own unique manner ever since …

From that tenuous beginning in ‘La Machine’ (see Modesty Blaise: the Gabriel Set-Up) the dynamic duo went on to crush the world’s vilest villains and most macabre monsters in a perpetual storm of tense suspense and inspirational action for nearly forty years…

The inseparable associates debuted in The Evening Standard on 13th May 1963 and over the passing decades went on to star in some of the world’s most memorable crime fiction, all in approximately three panels a day.

Creators Peter O’Donnell & Jim Holdaway (who had previously collaborated on Romeo Brown – a lost strip classic equally deserving of its own archive albums) produced a timeless treasure trove of brilliant graphic escapades until the illustrator’s tragic early death in 1970, whereupon Spanish artist Enric Badia Romero (and occasionally John Burns, Neville Colvin and Pat Wright) assumed the art reins, taking the partners-in-peril to even greater heights.

The series has been syndicated world-wide and Modesty has starred in 13 prose novels and short-story collections, several films, a TV pilot, a radio play, an original American graphic novel from DC and nearly one hundred comic strip adventures until the strip’s conclusion in 2001.

The serial exploits are a broad blend of hip adventuring lifestyle and cool capers, combining espionage, crime, intrigue and even – now and again – plausibly intriguing sci fi and supernaturally tinged horror genre fare, with ever-competent Modesty and Willie canny, deadly, yet all-too-fallibly human defenders of the helpless and avengers of the wronged…

Reproduced in stark and stunning monochrome – as is only right and fitting – Titan Books’ superbly scrupulous chronological serial re-presentations of the ultimate trouble-shooters resume here, with O’Donnell & Romero offering four more masterpieces of mood mystery sand mayhem only pausing for intriguing Introduction ‘Modest Morality’: an insightful overview of the wonder woman’s ethics and motivation from author and incurable fan-addict Simon Barnes (How to be a Bad Birdwatcher, The Sacred Coombe, Ten Million Aliens).

The suspenseful dramas open with Ripper Jax (originally run in The Evening Standard from May 4th to October 2nd 1995), wherein Modesty and Willie repay an old blood-debt to psychometricist and antiquarian bookseller Mr. Haley. The old gentleman has a daughter who’s a bit of a wild child and now she’s been kidnapped by psychotic, knife-throwing gang boss Ripper Jax.

The thoroughly nasty flesh-peddler is after two million pounds hidden by a thief who is beyond his usual means of coercion and persuasion, but for a man who can find things by mental divination all things are possible…

Naturally the Dynamic Duo leap to the distraught dad’s defence, but a little pre-raid intelligence-gathering around the villain’s medieval castle in Ireland not only reveals the huge odds arranged against them but also that it might not be a simple abduction and trade that’s going on…

Moreover, Jax soon knows the troubleshooters are coming but doesn’t care. He’s always wanted to test his knives and skill against the legendary bladesman Willie Garvin…

The scene shifts to the antipodes for The Maori Contact (3rd October 2nd 1995 – March 1st 1996) as Willie helps some old friends finish a magnificent, hand-carved traditional Waka. The 100-foot native war-canoe is the crowning triumph of British sculptor Jason Nash and his wife Carol, but they have no idea of the problems brewing…

In London, Modesty is just learning from Jason’s uncle Sir Gerald Tarrant that Carol has inherited millions of pounds from a crazy relative she had no notion of, even as Willie and Jason foil an abduction attempt which leaves one kidnapper dead and poor hubby with blood on his hands…

Rushing out on the first jet to New Zealand, Modesty and Tarrant are unaware that Carol’s sole rival for the inheritance is already on his way ahead to them, having hired one of the few criminal organisations in the world undaunted by the lethal reputations of Blaise and Garvin.

Not prepared to leave it at that, Carol’s unknown enemy also recruits an army of local riff raff to play back-up, but has completely underestimated the devious duo’s experience in whittling down overwhelming odds and uncanny ability to find helpful allies in the strangest places…

A startling glimpse into Modesty’s criminal days running The Network underpins Honeygun (March 4th to August 2nd 1996), revealing how her life was saved by a merciless mercenary killer.

Sadly the striking Eurasian assassin was too depraved and kill-hungry to be allowed to join Modesty’s gang and left in a huff with a solemn promise that Modesty owed her a debt which would one day be called in…

Years later that obligation becomes a deadly burden when Willie and “the Princess” are relaxing in their Tangiers home. Modesty is spending time with her occasional paramour Dr. Giles Pennyfeather when Honeygun resurfaces, orchestrating a heist which goes bloodily awry.

Trapped in the Kasbah with the cops closing in, the sociopathic killer calls in her debt and Modesty reluctantly spirits her away before the police can swoop…

Blaise’s misgivings over the rescue are soon proved true when Honeygun kills an Israeli diplomat and his chauffeur and subsequently abducts Giles from his hospital to remove a bullet from one of her henchmen wounded in the exchange of fire…

Torn by guilt, Modesty resolves to stop Honeygun for good. Before long she and Willie have tracked the crazy killer and her increasingly anxious army of hired guns to a derelict Roman fort and begun the perilous task of extracting Giles and cutting down the odds. With the worst storm in decades brewing, Modesty has to deal with one final hiccup when her darling doctor refuses to leave without his critically injured patient…

This catalogue of compelling crookedness and catastrophic crime-busting concludes with a gripping yarn wherein Modesty and Willie rush to the rescue of old friends Dinah and Stephen Collier in the raw heart of the Guatemalan jungle.

The professor and his blind, psychic wife were working for Blaise’s occasional lover John Dall, divining potential drill sites for the billionaire’s oil company when they were taken by a gang of rebels led by the charismatic maniac Durango (August 5th 1996 to January 3rd 1997)…

Rapidly swinging into action, Blaise and Garvin go native and attempt to infiltrate the band in the manner that’s worked so well so often, but things go south swiftly when Durango turns out to be old Network adversary Lazaya who instantly recognises them and decides to ransom them instead….

With everything going wrong the partners in peril have to think fast, act boldly and ruthlessly exploit every advantage to save their friends and themselves, but as always the final arbiter is a study in applied violence…

These are incomparable capers crafted by brilliant creators at the peak of their powers; revelling in the sheer perfection of an iconic creation. Unforgettable shock and suspense-stuffed escapades packed with sleek sex appeal, dry wit, terrific tension and explosive action, the stories grow more appealing with every rereading and never fail to deliver maximum impact and total enjoyment.
Modesty Blaise © 2014 Associated Newspapers/Solo Syndication.

Modesty Blaise: Ripper Jax is available for pre-order now and will be published on March 4th 2016.

Modesty Blaise: The Killing Distance


By Peter O’Donnell & Enric Badia Romero (Titan Books)
ISBN: 978-1-78116-712-0

Modesty Blaise and her lethally adept, compulsively platonic partner Willie Garvin gained fearsome reputations as top-flight super-criminals before retiring young, rich and healthy. With their honour intact and their hands relatively clean, they cut themselves off completely from a career where they made all the money they would ever need and far too many enemies – a situation exacerbated by their heartfelt conviction that killing was only ever to be used as a last resort.

When devious British Spymaster Sir Gerald Tarrant sought them out they were slowly dying of boredom in England. The wily old bird offered them a chance to have fun, get back into harness and do a bit of good in the world. They jumped at his offer and have been cleaning up the world in their own unique way ever since …

From that tenuous beginning in ‘La Machine’ (see Modesty Blaise: the Gabriel Set-Up) the dynamic duo went on to crush the world’s vilest villains and most macabre monsters in a perpetual storm of tense suspense and inspirational action for nearly forty years…

The inseparable associates first appeared in The Evening Standard on May 13th 1963 and over the decades went on to star in some of the world’s most memorable crime fiction, all in three panels a day.

Creators Peter O’Donnell & Jim Holdaway (who had previously collaborated on Romeo Brown) produced a timeless treasure trove of brilliant graphic escapades until the illustrator’s tragic early death in 1970, whereupon Spanish artist Enric Badia Romero (and occasionally John Burns, Neville Colvin and Pat Wright) assumed the art reins, taking the partners-in-peril to even greater heights.

The series has been syndicated world-wide and Modesty has also starred in 13 prose novels and short-story collections, several films, a TV pilot, a radio play, an American graphic novel and nearly one hundred comic strip adventures until the strip’s conclusion in 2001.

The tales are a broad blend of hip adventuring lifestyle and cool capers combining espionage, crime, intrigue and even – now and again – plausibly intriguing sci fi and supernaturally tinged horror genre fare, with ever-competent Modesty and Willie canny, deadly, yet all-too-fallibly human defenders of the helpless and avengers of the wronged…

Reproduced in stark and stunning black & white – and quite right too – Titan Books’ superb and scrupulous serial re-presentations of the ultimate strip trouble-shooters resume here with O’Donnell & Romero offering another chilling trio of tales spanning November 1992 to February 1994, each prefaced with informative prose introductions from devotee, publisher, strip historian and Mathematics Professor Rick Norwood.

The rollicking romps begin with non-stop thrill-ride ‘Guido the Jinx’ (originally seen in The Evening Standard from February 10th to July 5th 1994) as Blaise and Garvin take a well-deserved vacation tracing the route of the historical Silk Road, only to have their peace and contemplation disrupted by pompous yet lovable old self-promoter Guido Biganzoli.

The legend in his own mind is now working as promoter for a movie being shot in the lonely wastes but the production has hit a snag: the male and female stuntmen are unable to work on the big-money shot…

Against their better judgement Modesty and Willie tackle the terrible “waterfall drop” but naturally it goes terribly wrong and they are carried away and deposited under a mountain…

Trouble always finds the dynamic duo and whilst extricating themselves from their watery tomb they discover Soviet operative and former associate Colonel Greb gravely wounded and holed up in a cave.

As they minister to him a horrific story unfolds: the old soldier was guarding a secret installation warehousing uranium when a gang of mercenaries swooped in and wiped out the garrison. Ruthless bandit Kung-Li plans to fly out the priceless contraband and sell it to who knows how many terrorist groups, or even make himself a nuclear power…

Resolved to stop the merciless gang with nothing more than hand-made stone-age weapons, Modesty and Willie’s arsenal of destruction gets an unexpected and unlikely boost when bad penny Guido suddenly turns up once again…

After that phenomenal and bloody exploit the canny couple are called upon to save the life of Sir Gerald Tarrant from one of the world’s richest and most reclusive men in ‘The Killing Distance’ (July 6th – November 30th 1994) which begins as Charles B. Delaney starts issuing orders from his impregnable fortress in the Atlas Mountains. Once upon a time he was KGB chief Ivan Brodsky but due to Tarrant’s undercover endeavours at the height of the Cold War lost everything and turned CIA informant.

Sadly the “Red Admiral” used Uncle Sam’s bottomless pockets to kickstart a huge private fortune and is now ready to use it all to kill the man who beat him in the “Great Game”…

When the first assassination attempt fails, Willie and Modesty rush to Tarrant’s hospital bedside and fill in the gaps of Tarrant’s tale with details from their own dealings with Delaney during the period when they seamlessly ran their crime-combine The Network.

Confronted with the grim facts, the old warhorse all but gives up the ghost, forbidding his friends to further endanger themselves, but as usual he has underestimated the depth of feeling and sense of gratitude they feel for him.

Immediately Modesty begins taking apart Delaney’s organisation and imperiously foiling his follow-up attempts on Sir Gerald and herself. Before long the frustrated egomaniac is pushed into making a colossal mistake, issuing a direct challenge to the formidable female.

He will end his attempts on the British agent’s life if she can – within thirty days – break into his unassailable citadel and get within arm’s length of him…

What happens when Willie and Modesty cunningly circumvent all his guards, resources and traps and she gets within the disputed “killing distance” is something the outraged oligarch could never have imagined…

The catalogue of compelling capers concludes with ‘The Aristo’ (December 1st 1994 to May 3rd 1995) wherein the peril-pursuing partners visit old friends in Hong Kong and barely survive an assassination attempt by old enemy Wu Smith

Adrift in a raft on the South China Sea they are picked up by freighter captain Miguel Camacho, currently transporting a cargo of electronics and his beloved, heavily pregnant wife Joaquina to Singapore.

Welcomed and cosseted, Modesty and Willie can’t help but worry when they hear of a modern-day pirate – a supposed British lord in his heavily armed vessel The Etonian – currently terrorising shipping in the area. After all, trouble has a tendency to find them wherever they end up…

Especially appalling are the stories of what The Aristo does with any women he takes from his nautical conquests, so when the brigand inevitably surfaces Willie and Modesty enact the most desperate gamble of their long and vivid careers with Jo and her imminent unborn the invaluable bait.

Moreover the subsequent punishments the crusading couple inflict on the vile sea-reavers are brutal and most assuredly final…

These are incomparable capers crafted by brilliant creators at the peak of their powers; revelling in the sheer perfection of an iconic creation. Unforgettable excitement-packed escapades packed with sleek sex appeal, dry wit, terrific tension and explosive action, the stories grow more appealing with every rereading and never fail to deliver maximum impact and total enjoyment.

Modesty Blaise © 2014 Associated Newspapers/Solo Syndication.

Modesty Blaise: The Grim Joker


By Peter O’Donnell & Enric Badia Romero (Titan Books)
ISBN: 978-1-78116-711-3

Win’s Christmas Gift Recommendation: unmissable comics for fans of classic blockbusting adventure… 9/10

Modesty Blaise and her lethally adept, compulsively platonic partner Willie Garvin gained their fearsome reputations as top-flight super-criminals before retiring young, rich and healthy. With their honour intact and their hands relatively clean, they cut themselves off completely from a career where they made all the money they would ever need and far too many enemies.

When devious British Spymaster Sir Gerald Tarrant sought them out they were slowly dying of boredom in England. The wily old bird offered them a chance to have fun, get back into harness and do a bit of good in the world. They jumped at his offer and have been cleaning up the world in their own unique way ever since …

From that tenuous beginning in ‘La Machine’ (see Modesty Blaise: the Gabriel Set-Up) the dynamic duo went on to crush the world’s vilest villains and most macabre monsters in a perpetual storm of tense suspense and inspirational action for nearly forty years…

The inseparable associates first appeared in The Evening Standard on May 13th 1963 and over the decades went on to star in some of the world’s most memorable crime fiction, all in three panels a day.

Creators Peter O’Donnell & Jim Holdaway (who had previously collaborated on Romeo Brown) produced a timeless treasure trove of brilliant graphic escapades until the illustrator’s tragic early death in 1970, whereupon Spanish artist Enric Badia Romero (and, occasionally, others) assumed the art reins, taking the partners in peril to even greater heights.

The series has been syndicated world-wide and Modesty Blaise has also starred in 13 prose novels and short-story collections, several films, a TV pilot, a radio play, an American graphic novel and nearly one hundred comic strip adventures until the strip’s conclusion in 2002.

The tales are a broad blend of hip and cool capers combining espionage, crime, straight adventure and even – now and again – plausibly intriguing sci fi and supernaturally tinged horror genre fare, with ever-competent Modesty and Willie canny, deadly, yet all-too-fallible human defenders of the helpless and avengers of the wronged…

Reproduced in stark and stunning black & white – and quite right too – Titan Books’ superb and scrupulous serial re-presentations of the ultimate newspaper troubleshooters continue here with O’Donnell and Romero offering a chilling trio of tales spanning November 1992 to February 1994, each prefaced with informative prose introductions from devotee and historian Simon Ward.

The rollercoaster ride begins with eerie thriller ‘A Present for the Princess’ (originally seen in The Evening Standard from November 3rd 1992 to April 8th 1993) with Garvin deep in the emerald mining region of Montelero, near Colombia.

He is in search of raw materials to create another of his outrageously over-the-top gifts for Modesty and is prepared for trouble from the thugs and bandits who inhabit the region, but not his own partner and guide Ramon who is, after all, a former pal from their long-defunct crime combine The Network

In England Modesty takes it easy whilst entertaining psychic researchers Steve and Dinah Collier – truly gifted individuals Tarrant wants to employ – who are happily on hand when Blaise has a nightmare premonition that Willie is in trouble.

As usual Garvin has told no one of his plans or destination and when Ramon attacked him had no hope of ever being found. However, the indomitable survivor escaped the ambush – barely – only to be washed up more dead than alive miles downriver. He was then nursed back to health by poor peon Rima: a young woman who looks astonishingly like Modesty.

Willie doesn’t recognise the fact though. The brutalised, battered Englishman has lost his memory…

Although his history is denied him Garvin’s deadly skills are intact and he jumps to the obvious conclusion that he is some kind of criminal. His actions disprove this notion, efficiently saving Rima from an abusive landowner and his thugs.

Although she has fallen for him the native girl knows his clouded mind is obsessed with another woman and she treks with him to the capital city Toccopina to obtain papers and possibly passage back to Britain…

At home, with Willie long overdue, Modesty has employed the Colliers and another psychic to search for him. Their endeavours have narrowed the search to the selfsame South American city. They have also resulted in an enigmatic prophecy…

Willie’s gift for card-playing has meanwhile won the wanderers a nice nest-egg but dropped him clueless amongst the city’s criminal element, most of whom have good reason to despise him.

After an old enemy recognises him, Willie is befriended by the wily conman and unknowingly “sold” to local mob boss Senor Strobel, who cunningly convinces the lethally talented amnesiac that he is an evil man wanted for murder who would only be safe if he rejoins the gang as a hit-man…

By the time Modesty arrives, Willie is safely tucked away in a fortress-like nest of bandits, where his inner self rebels from the acts he’s expected to perform. Naturally she has a plan to save her brother-in-arms and make all the guilty parties very sorry indeed…

Following that spectacular and explosive resolution, the tables are turned somewhat for ‘Black Queen’s Pawn’, a riotous African adventure yarn (April 13th – September 10th) which begins in 1834 when Ranavalona, autocratic and utterly insane queen of Madagascar, obtains a treasure guaranteed to make her immortal. She then hides it away from the eyes of mankind and, just to be sure, has every person who knew of it slaughtered…

Now one hundred and sixty years later hard times have befallen the island, as is clearly observed by veterinary surgeon Greg Lawton who has been commissioned by government officials to find a giant fossil egg.

He’s brought old chum Modesty with him, but when they reach the poverty-stricken village of Mandofo they find the place has been taken over by ruthless thugs on a treasure hunt.

The leader Koch has crossed swords with her before and convinces his murderous underlings not to kill the westerners out of hand. If she dies, nothing could stop the absent Willie Garvin hunting them down. Far better to keep her alive and on her best behaviour by holding innocent villagers hostage…

Forced into unwilling neutrality, Modesty and Greg befriend local missionary Father Brienne and discover the savage invaders are seeking Ranavalona’s legendary lost hoard for mysterious millionaire paymaster Salim. As the cleric is also Koch’s unwilling translator of ancient documents, he provides clues which enable Modesty to deduce where the treasure actually is…

The suspenseful standoff continues until Willie – acting on his own uncanny instincts – surprisingly joins the party, but with Garvin now here in front of them instead of lurking unsuspected at their heels, Koch and Salim decide to arrange a little accident.

However with the deadly détente effectively negated their targets know full well all bets are off and, after brilliantly locating the treasure for the gangsters, go on to prove just a bit smarter and more efficient in settling scores…

The addictive action concludes in a classic murder mystery which sees Modesty take a rare personal interest in a news sensation as Britain is gripped by a series of bizarre, baroque and flamboyant murders by a macabre psychopath signing himself ‘The Grim Joker’ (September 13th 1993 – February 9th 1994)…

The killer apparently devises convoluted, extremely public executions for sheer amusement but such callous slaughter for pleasure disgusts reluctant professionals such as Blaise and Garvin.

Soon they have made themselves prime targets for the maniac, unaware that the Grim Joker is not what he seems. The insanely Machiavellian exploits are in fact a cunning blind concocted by a trio of greedy brats eager to expedite an eventual inheritance.

Brothers Matthew and Mark Goodchild, along with their shared girlfriend Prudence, originally set up the crimes to divert suspicion after they decided to bump off their rich uncle, but as they carried out the string of publicity seeking murders, the thrill of achievement affected them.

Prudence especially has become intoxicated with the undertaking, and begs for more before topping their true target and retiring. Her wish is granted after Willie publicly ridicules the Grim Joker on television and arouses the righteous indignation of the brothers.

It’s all a cunning plan by the ex-Network leaders. After consulting old friend Police Inspector Brook, Modesty and Willie have correctly deduced that the crimes are the work of a team not a lone maniac, and Garvin has offered himself as a too-tempting follow-up target.

Relocating to an isolated Scottish island “for a holiday”, Willie makes himself available for his unknown foes, with Modesty concealed waiting to spring their trap.

Unfortunately they’re keeping watch for a couple of strong men, not the frail helpless girl who first washes up on the desolate death trap…

What follows is smart, chaotic and shatteringly thrill-a-minute excitement, before the dust finally settles and the final tally is taken…

These are incomparable capers crafted by brilliant creators at the peak of their powers; revelling in the sheer perfection of an iconic creation. Unforgettable romps packed with sleek sex appeal, dry wit, terrific tension and explosive action and, these stories grow more appealing with every rereading and never fail to deliver maximum impact and total enjoyment.

Modesty Blaise © 2014 Associated Newspapers/Solo Syndication.

Modesty Blaise: The Young Mistress


By Peter O’Donnell & Enric Badia Romero (Titan Books)
ISBN: 978-1-78116-709-0

Win’s Christmas Gift Recommendation: unmissable comics for fans of classic blockbusting adventure… 9/10

Modesty Blaise and her lethally adept platonic partner Willie Garvin were superior criminals who retired young, rich and healthy – without ever getting too dirty – from a career where they made far too many enemies.

They were slowly dying of boredom in England when British Spymaster Sir Gerald Tarrant offered them a chance to have fun, get back into harness and do a bit of good in the world. They jumped at his offer of excitement and a chance to get some really evil sods.

With that tenuous beginning in ‘La Machine’ (see Modesty Blaise: the Gabriel Set-Up) the pair embarked upon a non-stop helter-skelter thrill-ride that has pitted them against the World’s vilest villains and maddest maniacs…

The legendary femme fatale first appeared in The Evening Standard on May 13th 1963 and over the following decades went on to star in some of the world’s most memorable crime fiction, all in three panels a day.

Creators Peter O’Donnell & Jim Holdaway (who had previously collaborated on Romeo Brown – a light-hearted adventure strip from the 1950’s itself long overdue for revival and compilation) produced a treasure trove of brilliant graphic escapades until the illustrator’s tragic early death in 1970, whereupon Spanish artist Enric Badia Romero and others assumed the art reins, taking the daredevil duo to even greater heights.

Modesty has been syndicated world-wide and the partners in peril have also starred in 13 prose novels and short-story collections, several films, a TV pilot, a radio play and nearly one hundred comic strip adventures between 1963 and the strip’s conclusion in 2002.

The tales are always stylish and engaging spy/crime/thriller fare in the vein of Ian Fleming’s Bond stories (as opposed to the super-spy’s sometimes over-the-top cinema exploits) although Modesty and Willie are competent, canny, deadly, yet all-too-fallibly human.

Reproduced in stark and stunning black & white – as they should be – Titan Books’ superb and scrupulous serial re-presentations of the ultimate newspaper troubleshooter continue here with O’Donnell and perennial collaborator Romero at the top of their game in a trio of tales spanning August 5th 1991 to November 2nd 1992, each prefaced with informative prose introductions from devotee and historian Lawrence Blackmore.

The rollercoaster ride begins with eponymous thriller ‘The Young Mistress’ (originally seen in The London Evening Standard from August 5th 1991 – January 6th 1992) which delves into the thorny subject of domestic abuse and the high-stakes world of art forgery.

When Modesty and current paramour Dr. Giles Pennyfeather aid a young woman thrashed with a riding crop they are astounded when the terrified Marian Hall refuses to press charges against shady art dealer Bruce Lacey.

Not only does the sadistic bully have unsubstantiated links to the underworld but he clearly enjoys inflicting pain. However when he surprises Marian’s rescuers, his attempts to teach Modesty “a lesson” rebound on him painfully and humiliatingly. They even take his toy girlfriend away…

Safely ensconced with Modesty and Willie, Marian explains that it’s not love but fear and guilt that keep her with Lacey. The young commercial artist is a brilliant copyist and when she first began seeing the astoundingly well-connected gallery owner, he convinced her to counterfeit a valuable painting before selling it on to an unsuspecting collector.

As a participant (albeit innocently) in fraud, she is in the monster’s pocket. Moreover Lacey was intending to use Marian to forge a borrowed Rembrandt and subsequently kidnaps her and her understanding old boyfriend to ensure the talented lass’ compliance in his nefarious multi-million-dollar scheme.

Determined to end the beast’s predations and thoroughly aware that Lacey will never rest until he has subjected Modesty to the brutal tortures that push his sick buttons, Willie and Modesty undertake a convoluted sting to break his power base, but are unaware of just how vicious and violent Lacey can be.

He, of course, has completely underestimated the lengths to which Modesty will go to defend the helpless…

‘Ivory Dancer’ (January 7th – June 5th 1992) changes tack as Modesty and Willie take their feisty, horse-mad prodigy Samantha to Kentucky for a vacation with billionaire John Dall.

The equine enthusiast is an old lover of Modesty’s as well as owner of the world’s most successful and valuable race horse, but the dream holiday unfortunately coincides with a cruel attempt to kidnap the four-legged superstar by ruthless gangster Gallo.

Sadly for the murderous thugs little Sam has an almost preternatural connection with the horse and once the steed goes missing she’s hot on his trail.

…And Willie and Modesty are hard on her heels; in no mood to be gentle with thugs who steal horses and threaten children…

The addictive action concludes in a classic espionage extravaganza as ‘Our Friend Maud’ (June 8th – November 2nd 1992) reintroduces Sir Gerald’s top agent in a clever tale of brainwashing, contract killing and international intrigue.

Maud Tiller is a top operative and when occasional dalliance Willie Garvin is blanked by her in a French restaurant he simply assumes she’s undercover on a mission. However his danger-honed senses are troubled and a little quiet checking reveals that the agent has gone AWOL.

Liaising with Modesty and Tarrant, Willie soon discovers that Maud has been kidnapped by fixer-for-hire the High Contractor and deduces she is being slowly programmed to assassinate somebody important and generally untouchable…

Linking up with Modesty, the outraged Garvin tracks Maud down and with the aid of unconventional Gallic operative Code-Name: Henri proceeds to infiltrate the upper echelons of grand society to rescue his English Rose, consequently dismantling one of the most dangerous international terror rings ever to threaten world peace…

These are unforgettable stories from brilliant creators at the peak of their powers; revelling in the majesty of an iconic creation. As timeless adventure romps packed with sex appeal, dry wit and devastating tension, the stories here are more enthralling now than ever and never fail to deliver maximum impact and total enjoyment.

Modesty Blaise © 2014 All rights reserved.

Modesty Blaise: Million Dollar Game


By Peter O’Donnell & Enric Badia Romero (Titan Books)
ISBN: 978-1-84856-675-0

Titan Books’ marvellous serial re-presentation of the classic British newspaper heroine continues as Enric Badia Romero returned to the strip after his years away drawing the controversial and racy science fiction serial Axa for The Sun, replacing permanently the subtly effective Neville Colvin…

Modesty and devoted platonic partner Willie Garvin are ex-criminals who retired young, rich and healthy from a career where they made far too many enemies. They were slowly dying of boredom in England when British Spymaster Sir Gerald Tarrant offered them a chance to have fun, get back into harness and do a bit of good in the world. Accepting, they have never looked back…

This volume begins with a classy modern western and mystery pastiche as Modesty and Willie vacation in cowboy country, intending to visit an old ghost town only to find Cordite City has been renovated into a top tourist trap. Getting ready to mosey on the pair spot that the tea-time re-enactment gunfight is actually lethally authentic…

Saving the life of one of the actors draws them into a crafty criminal scheme wherein a pretty young thing is menaced by the ghosts of infamous dead outlaws, an ancient Shoshone warrior holds the secret to a vast fortune and sneaky owlhoots are ruthlessly  attempting to pull off a very contemporary land grab in ‘Butch Cassidy Rides Again…’

The eponymous ‘Million Dollar Game’ (which originally ran in the London Evening Standard from 13th February-8th July 1987) delves into a long-hidden secret vice of World’s Greatest Adventure Heroine before coming bang up-to-date when an old friend asks for Modesty’s assistance in documenting the extent of ivory poaching in East Africa for the World Wildlife Fund.

However the vast profits generated by the vile trade tempts even the most trustworthy men and when Modesty and companion are shot down in the Bush Willies must rush to find them before the heavily-armed poachers do…

The volume concludes with another devilishly tongue-in-cheek taste of the not-so-supernatural in ‘The Vampire of Malvescu’ (July 9th – December 3rd 1987) as one of Willie and Modesty’s periodic extreme challenges leads the dynamic duo into a sinister plot and terrifying danger in the darkest heart of Transylvania, Women may be turning up naked and drained of blood but can it be Nosferatu?

Moreover, what possible part can Modesty’s old technical armourer and his pregnant young bride play in the unfolding nightmare?

Originally the heroine of a newspaper strip created by Peter O’Donnell and drawn by the brilliant Jim Holdaway, Modesty Blaise – and her ubiquitous, charismatic partner in crime and crime-busting Willie Garvin – has also starred in 13 prose novels and short-story collections, several films, a TV pilot, a radio play and nearly one hundred comic strip adventures between 1963 and the strip’s conclusion in 2002. She has been syndicated world-wide, and Holdaway’s version has been cited as an artistic influence by many major comic artists.

As always this volume contains detailed story introductions (here from Blaise historian Lawrence Blackmore) and a complete checklist of adventures and creator credits.

These are unforgettable stories from a brilliant writer at the peak of his powers revelling in the majesty of his greatest creation; timeless action romps and tales of sexy dry wit, more enthralling now than ever, which never fail to deliver maximum impact and total enjoyment. It’s never too late to find your Modesty…

© 2011 Associated Newspapers/Solo Syndication.

Modesty Blaise: Green Cobra


By Peter O’Donnell, John Burns & Pat Wright (Titan Books)
ISBN 13: 1-84576-420-3

Titan Books’ marvellous series re-presentation the classic British newspaper strip continues and concludes a period of artistic instability with this fourteenth volume (encompassing April 2nd 1979 to May 23rd 1980) as the superb John M. Burns finishes his groundbreaking and far too brief tenure as illustrator on the World’s Greatest Adventure Heroine, abruptly replaced mid-strip by veteran Pat Wright – who also didn’t stick around for very long…

Burns had worked on Junior Express and School Friend but really began his auspicious rise as part of the team of artists who worked on the Gerry Anderson licensed titles TV Century 21 and its sister magazines (he is fondly remembered for Space Family Robinson in Lady Penelope). He drew strips for The Daily Sketch, Daily Mirror and Sun with long, acclaimed runs on The Seekers and the saucy strip Danielle, before briefly and controversially taking over Modesty Blaise.

He has since worked on TV-based series for Look-In and Countdown and found a welcome home in the legendary British science fiction comic 2000AD, where he works on Judge Dredd, Nikolai Dante and his own Bendatti Vendetta.

Although Burns only drew 272 consecutive daily strips, his influence on Modesty was marked and long-lasting. His deft ability with nib and brush are highlighted here with a further complimentary feature reprinting 6 more of the illustrations he drew for O’Donnell’s Modesty prose novels. Also included is another text feature on the oddly arbitrary editorial censorship the strip endured at this period, and particularly the rather heavy-handed manner in which Cartoon Editor Gerald Lip was ordered by Evening Standard Editor Charles Wintour to summarily fire Burns, and ten months later, after only 198 strips, Wright as well, in just as brusque and inexplicable a manner. To this day no one why they were dismissed.

Of Pat Wright himself I know very little, other than he is an exceptionally talented draughtsman, well capable of handling a dramatic feature like Modesty, and also a highly skilled comedy cartoonist working in both line and painted colour. He looks to have been one of the artists used by Fleetway in the late 1970’s on such titles as Action and Valiant (but I’m only guessing here). Just another unsung hero of an industry far too reticent in giving credit where it’s due…

Modesty and Willie Garvin are ex-criminals who retired young, rich and healthy from a career where they made far too many enemies. They were slowly dying of boredom in England when British Spymaster Sir Gerald Tarrant offered them a chance to have fun, get back into harness and do a bit of good in the world. Accepting, they have never looked back…

This volume begins with the eponymous ‘Green Cobra’ and finds Burns at his most effective in a sly and gripping tale of intrigue wherein a band of professional espionage agents kidnap Tarrant’s right hand man Fraser, with a view to breaking and selling him to the highest bidder.

This is a tale rich in character, which spends some welcome time on the bit-players for a change, although when Modesty and Willie go into action against the devilish Dr. Vigo and Pandora, an death-crazed assassin who covets Modesty’s hard-earned reputation, the pace is hectic and the action non-stop. Full of twists and clever subterfuge, this tripartite struggle between Tarrant’s agents, established enemy network Salamander Four and the mysterious new organisation Green Cobra all add to one of the most captivating Modesty yarns ever.

‘Eve and Adam’ is a deliciously quirky tale blending whimsy with terrifyingly grim geopolitical horrors as millionaire philanthropist Dan Galt throws a party for Modesty and Willie, before drugging and transporting them to an isolated part of Africa. It transpires that Galt is dying and believes that humanity will soon follow him. Determined that the race will not be lost he dumps his guests naked and helpless in his new Garden of Eden expecting them to repopulate the world after we’re all gone.

Sadly the old duffer has made a few wrong assumptions. Firstly, Modesty and Willie are simply unable to relate to each other sexually – their bond is far deeper than that. Secondly, the world just isn’t that big anymore: Galt’s oasis in the middle of a desert is disputed territory warring African nations are seeking to control, and finally, his new Adam and Eve are never helpless…

As the pair are preparing to trek out of the desert a satellite crashes into their garden, carrying geological data that the state of Burenzi and its opponent nations will kill to possess. Before too long a small unit from the former and a large troop of mercenaries from the latter have invaded paradise, and they’re not the kind of people who leave witnesses…

Burns was fired without warning or explanation four weeks into this saga and Pat Wright deftly took over just as the bloodshed of a brutal war of attrition escalated, with Modesty and Willie making alliances and picking off ruthless soldiers in a gritty, effective contemporary thriller.

This volume, and Wright’s artistic tenure end with a thoroughly engaging Christmas themed crime-mystery ‘Brethren of Blaise’ which finds our tarnished heroes exposing a criminal scheme perpetrated against one of England’s most impoverished aristocratic families. Hidden treasure, nasty murders and a delightfully thrilling supernatural frosting combined with superb humour and action make this an exception tale in an often grim canon.

During this tale, and once more for no apparent reason, Editor Wintour had Modesty’s illustrator fired. His replacement, Neville Colvin, managed to survive a while longer…but that’s a tale for another graphic novel and a different review.

Originally a newspaper strip created by Peter O’Donnell and drawn by the brilliant Jim Holdaway, Modesty and her charismatic partner in crime (and latterly crime-busting) Willie Garvin have also starred in 13 prose novels and short story collections, two films, one TV pilot, a radio play and nearly one hundred comic strip adventures between 1963 and the strip’s conclusion in 2002. She has been syndicated world-wide, and Holdaway’s version has been cited as an artistic influence by many major comic artists.

These are unbeatable stories from a brilliant writer and his greatest creation; timeless tales of crime and punishments more enthralling now than ever, and which never fail to deliver maximum thrills and enjoyment. It’s never too late to embrace your Modesty…

© 2008 Associated Newspapers/Solo Syndication.

Modesty Blaise: Yellowstone Booty


By Peter O’Donnell, Enric Badia Romero & John Burns (Titan Books)
ISBN: 978-1-84576-419-7

Originally a newspaper strip created by Peter O’Donnell and drawn by the brilliant Jim Holdaway, Modesty and her charismatic partner in crime (and latterly crime-busting) Willie Garvin have also starred in 13 prose novels and short story collections, two films, one TV pilot, a radio play and nearly one hundred comic strip adventures between 1963 and the strip’s conclusion in 2002. She has been syndicated world-wide, and Holdaway’s version has been cited as an artistic influence by many major comic artists.

Titan Books’ marvelous series re-presenting the classic British newspaper strip reaches a period of artistic instability with this thirteenth volume as Spanish collaborator Romero left in 1978 to concentrate on his own creation Axa; although if anything the strip actually improved under the all-too-brief tenure of his replacement.

John M. Burns had worked on Junior Express and School Friend but truly began his auspicious rise as part of the inimitable and beloved team of artists who worked on the Gerry Anderson licensed titles TV Century 21 and its sister magazines (he is particularly admired for Space Family Robinson in Lady Penelope). He drew strips for The Daily Sketch, Daily Mirror and Sun with long, acclaimed runs on The Seekers and the saucy “Good Girl” strip Danielle (expect a review of her really soon), before briefly – and controversially – taking over Modesty Blaise.

Since then he has worked on TV-based series for Look-In and Countdown before latterly abandoning pen and ink for painted art and finding a welcome home in the legendary British science fiction comic 2000AD, where he has – and continues to – work on Judge Dredd, Nikolai Dante and his own Bendatti Vendetta. He is also a regular adaptor of significant literary masterpieces, having already completed pictorial versions of Lorna Doone, Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre.

Although Burns only drew 272 consecutive daily strips, his influence on Modesty was marked and long-lasting. His deft ability with nib and brush are highlighted here with a complimentary feature reprinting 12 of his illustrations from some of those prose novels O’Donnell wrote starring his inimitable creation, and there are also sketches and cover reproductions from Titan Books’ 1980s Modesty collections.

The adventure portion of this book begins with ‘Idaho George’ an extremely engaging comedy thriller which sees Garvin and “the Princess” rescue an old acquaintance. The eponymous George is a marriage-dodging conman who accidentally fools the wrong mark: superstitious and extremely dangerous Anastasia Bone sets her gang of murderous crime specialists on the hapless trickster when he masquerades as a swami who can materialise gold from thin air…

Fast-paced and tremendously satisfying, that caper is just a taster for Romero’s last job ‘The Golden Frog’, a globe-girdling vendetta that brings Modesty back to her roots when Saragam – the martial arts master who taught her to fight – is captured by a revenge-crazed Khmer Rouge warlord with a grudge against her that stretches back to her days as leader of the criminal organisation The Network. Lured back to the “Killing Fields” of Cambodia and unsure who to trust, Modesty and Willie face possibly their greatest threat in this action-packed, fists of fury fight-fest.

John Burns seemed an ideal replacement for Romero, and is still remembered with affection and appreciation by fans, but he only illustrated two-and-a-half stories, beginning with ‘Yellowstone Booty’ which ran from November 1st 1978 to March 30th 1979 (if you’re curious Idaho George and The Golden Frog appeared in the Evening Standard from 23rd January to October 31st 1978).

His innate design sense, sleek, deceptive line and facility with the female form coincided with a much freer use of casual nudity in the feature, and the action scenes were to become graphic poetry in motion. All these advantages can be observed in this clever yarn of gangsters and lost treasure that sees a young couple save Willie from an ingenious murder-plot, incurring a debt that Modesty moves Heaven and Earth to repay…

These timeless tales of crime and punishments are more enthralling now than ever, and provide much-needed relief in a world increasingly bleak and confusing. At least here you always know who to cheer for and who to boo at. More than three decades later it’s quite odd to realise just mere months after the heroine shockingly – and controversially – bared her breasts, naked ladies adorned not just the comics pages but the “news” portions of so many British papers – all without the kingdom falling into flaming anarchy.

Odder still is the realization that heavy-handed censorship still occurs in America and other countries: boobies and botties – no matter how well-drawn – are still racy, shocking and a big deal opposed with all the vehemence one expects from populations when their Governments suspend Habeas Corpus and/or outlaw football.

I trust this will be all the warning you need, should you be of a sensitive disposition, but hope that such sights won’t discourage you from reading these incredible tales of fiction’s greatest adventuress.

© 2008 Associated Newspapers/Solo Syndication.

Modesty Blaise: Death Trap


By Peter O’Donnell & Enric Badia Romero (Titan Books)
ISBN 13: 1-84576-418-0

Modesty Blaise and her devoted deputy Willie Garvin were retired super-criminals who got too rich too young without ever getting too dirty and are now usually complacent and bored out of their brains. When approached by Sir Gerald Tarrant, head of a British spy organization, they jumped at his offer of excitement and a chance to get some real evil sods. From that tenuous beginning in ‘La Machine’ (see Modesty Blaise: the Gabriel Set-Up) the pair began a helter-skelter thrill ride that has pitted them against the World’s vilest villains…

The legendary femme fatale adventurer first appeared in the Evening Standard on May 13th, 1963 and starred in some of the world’s most memorable crime fiction, all in three panels a day. Her creators Peter O’Donnell and Jim Holdaway (who had previously collaborated on Romeo Brown – a light-hearted adventure strip from the 1950’s and itself well overdue for collection) produced story after story until Holdaway’s tragic early death in 1970, whereupon Spanish artist Enric Badia Romero assumed the art reins taking the daredevil duo to even grater heights.

The tales are stylish and engaging spy/crime/thriller fare in the vein of Ian Fleming’s Bond stories (as opposed to the sometimes over-the-top movie exploits). Modesty and Willie are competent and deadly, but all too fallibly human.

Following an intriguing dissertation by fan and historian Lawrence Blackmore on how the strip was censored in America (entitled ‘Preserving Modesty’s Modesty’ ) this twelfth superb black and white volume, collecting strips which originally appeared in the between October 21st 1976 and January 20th 1978, kicks off in high style with the entrancing but ultimately tragic yarn ‘The Vanishing Dollybirds’ wherein the duo are drawn into a web of Arabic white slavery, administered by the frightfully British and thoroughly unpleasant Major Hamilton and his formidable wife Priscilla, not to mention their uniquely fey hitman and murder-artisan, Bubbles.

Combining high-octane drama with sly comedy and all the charms of the circus (Willie bought one when he was feeling bored…) this is a cracking, straightforward tale which acts as pace-setter for ‘The Junk Men’, a moody murder mystery set in Turkey. Willie is playing stuntman on a science fiction film before getting accidentally embroiled in a war between the police and the world’s three biggest drug lords. And whenever Willie is in trouble can Modesty be far away?

Closing the book is a truly sinister plot from a vengeance-crazed Warsaw Pact commissar determined to punish Modesty for past offences in the gripping, brutal thriller ‘Death Trap’. Comrade Director Breslin wants the retired super-criminal to suffer so he begins his campaign by murdering her current lover in the most appalling manner he could conceive of, but the ambitious politician could never imagine just how dangerous an angry Modesty Blaise could be…

Tightly plotted, with twist after turn, and cross after double-cross, this is no simple revenge story but a sharp, incisive romp that uses the madness of the Cold War “Mutually Assured Destruction” philosophy to great advantage and devastating effect…

In an industry where comic themes seem more and more limited and the readership dwindles to a slavish fan base that only wants more and shinier versions of what it’s already had, the beauty of such strips as Modesty Blaise is not simply the timeless excellence of the stories and the captivating wonder of the illustration, but that material like this can’t fail to attract a broader readership to the medium. Its content can hold its own against the best television and film. NCIS, Chuck Bartowski and Sydney Bristow beware – Modesty’s back to show you how it should be done…

© 2007 Associated Newspapers/Solo Syndication.