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Modesty Blaise: Million Dollar Game by Peter O'Donnell and Enric Badia Romero

1/10/2011. Contributed by Geoff Willmetts

Buy Modesty Blaise: Million Dollar Game in the USA - or Buy Modesty Blaise: Million Dollar Game in the UK

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pub: Titan Books. 104 page graphic novel softcover. Price: GBP11.99 (UK), $19.95 (US), $ 22.95 (CAN). ISBN: 978-1-84856-675-0.

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I’ll tell you one thing, in this current world of doom and gloom, if you want a series to cheer you up, then ‘Modesty Blaise’ and the recent release of the three story compilation, ‘Million Dollar Game’, is just the thing to while away a few hours. Is it any wonder that Peter O’Donnell’s famous creation is a Science Fiction fan favourite and the opening story, ‘Butch Cassidy Rides Again’ is sure to draw the western fans as well. For Romero’s first story back drawing Modesty, Peter O’Donnell’ concocted a story merging the old west with the modern times, circa mid 1980s.

Modesty and Willie Garvin are taking a holiday travelling The Outlaw Trail in Montana and discover that what was supposed to be a ghost town, Cordite, has become a tourist attraction for a little touch of western stunt gunfighting. However, when one of the cowboys is shot for real, the pair of them find themselves embroiled with disguised outlaws and a family being attacked for their land.

In many respects, this is more a Willie Garvin story than Modesty’s as he gets involved more in the finale and it’s the first time in ages that he’s been armed with his knives, although oddly finds something else to throw when he needed to. The story is more character-driven than usual and if anything, it was a shame that we couldn’t gauge just how dangerous the Preacher was supposed to be.

The title story, ‘Million Dollar Game’, reunites Modesty with Greg Lawton, a vet she knew after disbanding the Network and now looking after the wildlife in an African reserve as well as keeping an eye out for poachers. Someone also wants him dead and after Modesty saves him the first time, Lawton’s plane is burnt. Fortunately, Modesty has her plane with her and offers to help for a fortnight. She also radios Willie Garvin, who also offers to help.

Things get worse when the poachers, informed of their presence, shoot Modesty and Lawton down, leaving the vet injured. They escape but with no arms and a bunch of poachers after them. With some help from a local radio ham, Willie locates Modesty and the pair are united but the odds are still high against them.

So much of this story is spoiler but you should get the drift from my synopsis. Oddly, for Peter O’Donnell, he made Modesty a little squeamish about going near a black rhino which, when you you consider her childhood, seeing wild animals close up shouldn’t have been a problem. Likewise, with doing a little bullet removing surgery. In the novels, Modesty has little qualms about doing such first aid which makes it all the more puzzling here, although probably used to give the vet something else to do.

The third story, ‘The Vampire Of Malvescu’, has Modesty and Willie racing each other independently through Transylvania to see Hans Braun, an expert technician that they used to employ in The Network days. Willie gets to the old castle first and discovers loner Hans has married Hilde, a true nature woman and pregnant. Modesty, waylaid by escorting a donkey, comes across a village whose people are fearful of a vampire, especially after the discovery of a blood-drained girl’s body. Clegg, an English-speaking writer there, tries to persuade Modesty not to travel at night but she won’t have any of that. As she and the donkey travels on, they are attacked by a vampire, who fails miserably. At Hans’ castle, the vampire mask is removed to reveal a dead Clegg, killed not by Modesty but the needle he was carrying to drain blood. Hans was being forced to supply weapons to a small terrorist group called Europe’s Fist and failure to co-operate would have meant a grisly death for his wife. Modesty and Willie set a trap, knowing that the other members of the group would have to come and seek retribution against Hans. They also become a little unstuck beguiled by Hilde’s kind nature and get a little wrong-footed.

This story has some nice detailed illustration, especially of Modesty, by Romero which combined with a tale that could have been played for laughs and wasn’t with some macabre elements makes for an interesting story with a clever twist at the end.

If you’ve missed out on the earlier volumes in this run, then this isn’t a bad book to get yourself started and become addicted. ‘Modesty Blaise’ is an institution amongst us older SF readers and seeing a book collection of all her ‘Daily Standard’ newspaper strips nearly three-quarters complete now is something of a treat. Peter O’Donnell was a superb storyteller and all three tales mix adventure, drama and sly bit of humour. Great stuff.

GF Willmetts

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