James Bond 007
The Spy Who Loved Me

Authors: Ian Fleming and Jim Lawrence
Artist: Yaroslav Horak
Titan Books
RRP: 12.99
ISBN 1 84576 174 X
Available 26 August 2005

When a Canadian test pilot is blackmailed by a revitalised SPECTRE, Bond is called in - but a treacherous girlfriend is preparing to put him in the line of fire. As if that weren't enough, 007 becomes embroiled in an insurance scam that quickly becomes a lethal game of cat and mouse...

Ah yes, this is what I have been waiting for from this series: more of the stylish art of Yaroslav Horak and the original storytelling of Jim Lawrence.

Though still based on an Ian Fleming novel, half of the comic-strip version of The Spy Who Loved Me is Lawrence's own invention. The first part of the strip deals with Bond's assignment against SPECTRE in Toronto, though it is not the very same mission that is described in the book. By this point in the strip's run, SPECTRE had apparently disbanded, following the demise of Blofeld in You Only Live Twice, so the writer introduces a revived SPECTRE, now led by a mysterious masked figure known as Madame Spectra. Her organisation would go on to plague Bond in several subsequent strips.

The second half of the story is based on the latter two-thirds of Fleming's novel, the "Them" and "Him" sections, in which the heroine Vivienne Michel is held captive by a pair of hoodlums and is then rescued by Bond. The opening "Me" section of the book, which dealt with Vivienne's early life, is glossed over in just a couple of lines of dialogue.

Really this is two stories in one, with the two halves rather crudely glued together in the middle. They would have worked better as a couple of linked stories: the first half could have been entitled Ghosthawk, after the warplane flown by test pilot Mike Farrar. On the other hand, if you wish to make your own "ultimate edition" of The Spy Who Loved Me, you could alternately read bits of the Canadian section of the strip and the "Me" section of the novel, a process that would, incidentally, add more narrative unity to the whole affair.

The strip version of the story actually works better than the novel in terms of Bond chronology. Fleming effectively wrote the book out of his continuity, by subsequently claiming, in On Her Majesty's Secret Service, that SPECTRE had not been heard from since the events of Thunderball. He also forbade the publication of a paperback edition or a strip adaptation, neither of which would appear until after his death. However, if you prefer to place the novel in its original position between Thunderball and OHMSS, and would like to regard the Mike Farrar bits as a separate entity, then click here.

Despite its basic structural flaw, this is a very strong strip, in more ways than one. The series has clearly moved on since the early days of Casino Royale, in which Bond's torture and use of the word "bitch" were omitted. The Spy Who Loved Me has a distinctly harder edge, with Bond evidently using the word "bitch", even though it is presented in the censored form "b----", and some tasteful nudity as Vivienne Michel takes no fewer than three showers during the course of the story.

A leading scientist, Dr John Phineus, has invented the Q-Ray, a potentially deadly weapon that he is considering handing over to the British Government. However, before he can do so, he is kidnapped by the Harpies, an all-female criminal gang who use hang-gliders and rocket packs...

The first wholly original Bond strip, The Harpies, is slightly marred by the unlikely nature of the some of its characters' names. The Harpies are named after creatures in Virgil's Aeneid. They were led by someone whose name means "black" and their main victim was the blind king, Phineus. I suppose it's possible that the villain, Simon Nero (which, in Italian, means "black") was so obsessed with his scientific rival Phineus that he named his gang after Virgil's creations, but it is still rather coincidental.

I also have my reservations about the strip's title, which isn't very "Bondian". Deadlier than the Male (a comment made by Bond in panel 849) might have been more suitable.

In all other respects, though, Lawrence is a worthy successor to Fleming. He puts Fleming's characters, including Bill Tanner and Miss Moneypenny, to good use, and also includes the Park, the "nursing home" where Bond recovered following his brainwashing in The Man with the Golden Gun. Moneypenny comes across particularly well, proving herself to be as competent in the field as she is behind a desk.

The plot, with its rocket packs and death rays, is more fantastical than your average Fleming novel. However, though evidently prompted by the success of the Bond movies, Lawrence does not stretch to such wild flights of fancy as the spaceship, gyrocopter and volcano base depicted in the then recent movie You Only Live Twice.

As with The Spy Who Loved Me, there is a hard edge to this tale, which features some particularly gritty fight scenes, not to mention an outdoor striptease.

This volume also includes an introduction by Caroline Munro, who played Naomi in the cinematic The Spy Who Loved Me, and features examining the post-Fleming comics and the various versions of Spy that have appeared over the years.

I could harp on for longer, but suffice to say, I loved this book.

Richard McGinlay

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