01/12/2008. Contributed by Geoff Willmetts
pub: Titan. 104 page softcover. Price: £11.99 (UK), $19.95 (US), $22.95 (CAN). ISBN: 978-1-848576-420-3.
check out website: www.titanbooks.com
The latest release of the 'Modesty Blaise' newspaper strips had a bit of a scandal involved which resulted in artist John Burns being summarily dismissed mid-story. Lawrence Blackmore explains how there was a single letter of complaint for a little nudity, a bare breast of Modesty herself was the only thing I spotted. Considering that both Modesty and Willie Garvin had been left naked in an Eden surrounded by dessert, Burns acted with decorum.
It isn't as though there hadn't been brief touches of nudity pre-Burns and even in contemporary strips like 'Garth' in the 'Daily Mirror' and 'Axa' (incidentally drawn by ex-Modesty artist Romero) certainly had far more nudity and this was 1979. Hardly a time when nudity wasn't abound.
I'm getting ahead of myself as there are three stories here. The first and title of the book, 'Green Cobra', has Modesty and Willie having a run-in with the criminal organisation Salamander Four when they kidnap Sir Gerald Tarrant's deputy, Jack Fraser. Unusually, they are caught flat-footed and Modesty faces Pandora, who thinks and might well be her superior. There's an interesting scene where Modesty disguises herself under a Darth Vader mask, no doubt indicating the effect of a certain 'Star Wars' film kicking around at the time.
The second story, 'Eve And Adam', is a consequence of an encounter with a rich old man, Dan Galt, who is convinced that the world is going to end by a virus outbreak after Tarrant had told him that the two of them were the best survivors in the world. They decline the invitation, thinking him crazy and are sedated. The next thing they know, they are naked and alone in Paradise Valley hidden away in the African state of Burenzi. They settle down for a few weeks, living off the land and begin preparing to cross the desert when a parachute drop delivers a satellite film. Soon, there are two groups after it. The scientists who rightfully own it and a band of mercenaries who kill most of them. Modesty and Willie step in to sort things out.
It's interesting seeing the difference between John Burns and Pat Wright. Once the switch mid-story happens, it's easy for the eye to change between them but that is largely because the story carries you on. Burns strength lies with spotting black or chiaroscuro in that he brings up sharp contrasts which bulks the panels up. Wright, based off these stories, leaves a lot more exposed white and only darkens a panel if it's actually night time. Both acceptable but show a difference in artists.
The third story, 'The Brethren Of Blaise', is more to do with Merlin's teacher than any relatives of Modesty. After a failed attempt on their lives, Modesty and Willie recognise various criminals on a local TV programme nearby who are allegedly waiting for Merlin to rise from his watery grave. Willie recognises Sarah, a girl amongst them whom he met in France that summer and thinks this is all related and they investigate and rescue her and her father. Except, her father doesn't quite believe it.
This is very much a 'get-me-out-of-this' scenario. What I did find interesting is recognising one of the characters looking awfully like actor David Warner with actors Nigel Davenport and Stanley Baker looking like a right couple of villains. With the next five books featuring Pat Wright's art, things are suddenly going to get an extra embellishment for any other guest appearances.
'Modesty Blaise' is popular amongst the SF community as a change from our usual genre and with the next fix not due until April 2009 and at such a good price, even if you've never encountered her before, you'll quickly become a fan. Don't miss it.
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