Written by: Jim Lawrence
Art by: Yaroslav Horak
Published by: Titan Books
Reviewer: Kristian Horn
I’ve pretty much been a big fan of these James Bond Omnibus editions from the beginning. When I’ve reviewed them for Ain’t It Cool News it’s been pretty much glowing reviews all around. Nothing’s really going to change here. I can pretty much say that, for the most part, that the James Bond Omnibuses (or is that Omnibi?) are really very entertaining comic book reads, especially if you are either a fan of James Bond or the super spy genre in particular. If you dig stuff like the old BBC Avengers TV show or The Man from U.N.C.L.E. or, heck, even some of the Nick Fury comics from back in the day…you’re going to dig the James Bond Omnibus books. I’d say it’s pretty much a given that if you’ve enjoyed Bond in either the novels he originated from or the films which made him into a universal icon, you’ll find something to enjoy in any of the Bond Omnibus books.
Every story in past editions has been pretty solid writing-wise and has always had strong art to accompany it. With the last edition (Volume 3 for anyone keeping count) I was introduced to the fantastic illustration skills of artist Yaroslav Horak. Horak’s style is incredibly unique and has a strength of line that you don’t see in a lot of cartooning these days. There is something about Horak’s method that reminds me very much of Howard Chaykin’s art but without Chaykin’s distinct stiffness. Horak is able to setup dramatic panel sequences that keep the stories flowing while illustrating in a bold technique that continues to be refreshing even forty years after they were originally published.
Luckily, Horak is still in place as the artist in Volume Four. Also fortunate is that this volume consists of “new” (I say “new” because, again, these stories were published about forty years ago) stories by writer Jim Lawrence. In one of my reviews for the James Bond Omnibus Volume 3 (For volume three I reviewed each story individually, a week at a time) I stated that I actually preferred the original J.D. Lawrence stories much more than Lawrence’s comic strip adaptations of the Ian Fleming Bond novels. I felt then, as I still feel now, that by being able to write up his own Bond adventures Mr. Lawrence was possibly able to embrace a certain amount of freedom that he might not have been able to have while writing adaptations of pre-existing material. As sacrilegious as it may be, I prefer what Jim Lawrence did with his own Bond than what he did with bringing Fleming’s Bond to life.
So all in all The James Bond Omnibus 004 is turning out to be a really enjoyable read for me, just as the previous editions have been. What I haven’t stated is that as of this writing I haven’t finished reading the whole book yet. What I plan to do here, much the same as what I did on Ain’t It Cool News with volume three, is do a write-up for each individual story as I go about reading them. They probably won’t be so much in depth reviews as they will be just a general summary of the story and how I felt about each sequence as I go through the book. I’ve already stated how much I enjoy the James Bond Omnibus books. I don’t think there’s much more that I can say in the affirmative about these editions than that I enjoy reading them so much that I feel like I want to talk about each story by giving them their own individual write-ups.
That all being said I might as well get started with the first one called…
Trouble Spot begins in typical Bond fashion. As Bond returns to his hotel room while on assignment he discovers an unwelcome yet sexy young naked female visitor in his suite. I know, you’re thinking, “What could be could James Bond find unwelcoming about a sexy young female visitor in his suite?” Well, turns out that she also happens to be brandishing a firearm when he walks in the door. Bond has apparently acquired the identity of said vixen’s missing boyfriend and the nude centerfold for the NRA Membership Magazine wants some answers as to why Bond is pretending to be her missing beau. Of course, as with all Bond escapades involving attractive women, Bond manages to finagle his way out of the situation and is able to convince the woman to help him on his quest for a McGuffin mysteriously known as “The Box”. It turns out that Bond’s hotel guest was not so much interested in the welfare of her boyfriend as she was of the contents of “The Box”. So once she realizes that her boyfriend has been the victim of a rather unfortunate car accident, she finds teaming up with Bond to be an appealing prospect.
Of course the mysterious young lady is not the only one in search of “The Box” and Bond and his temporary sidekick soon find themselves up against a Russian mobster that goes by the name “Commissar Sharkface”. Sharkface is a particularly nasty fellow (and, because of Horak’s talents, one of the most distinctive looking villains in all of the James Bond Omnibus editions) and he soon discerns Bond’s true identity and tries to force the location of “The Box” from Bond by using not so friendly means. Before long Bond and the woman escape and their hunt eventually leads them to the California coast in search of the wife of the man who Bond was impersonating.
As far as Bond tales go this one was pretty straightforward although it did tend to lapse into a bit of silliness as well as out and out male chauvinism at times. Honestly, the James Bond movies have never really been known for their respect of the female gender so I shouldn’t be surprised but it seems that in previous volumes of The James Bond Omnibus things might have been a bit tamer sexuality-wise. There’s a bit more cartoon nudity here than in the last James Bond Omnibus. This particular tale actually included an interrogation scene where a female interrogator has to remove her top because she would be able to whip her almost naked subject more effectively if she was “unhampered by clothing”! You would think that the nude woman waiting for Bond in his room and the “topless torturer” would be the end of the half naked antics but things go even a bit further when Bond and his cohort actually have to go visit a nudist colony at one point in the story! I kid you not…a nudist colony.
Again, this is James Bond, so I shouldn’t be surprised, but I do have to say that Jim Lawrence never really misses a chance to expose the female flesh in this story. Truth to tell, much of what’s displayed is actually pretty tame compared to today’s standards and I would even go so far as to say that most of the nudity is tasteful. This is not really all that salacious in any way…it’s just not something that I was expecting having read previous editions of the James Bond comic strips. Please don’t let my prudish harping in the previous paragraph and a half of this review scare you off. Trouble Spot is Bond goodness all the way and considering what the movies were doing at the time these were published I can see the creators of the newspaper strip just trying to compete with what they were seeing on the movie screen. Not to worry, Trouble Spot is still the type of solid spy actioner that many of us expect from James Bond even if it does tend to dissolve into a bit of over-the-top ridiculousness at times.