action heroine


A reprint of the Modesty Blaise comic strips 16, 17, and 18.

Publisher: Titan
Original publication years: 1969-1970
Titan publication year: 2005

This collection ends Holdaway’s MB comics. He died suddenly in the middle of drawing “the War-Lords of Phoenix” and Romero was selected to take over. Romero has a distinctive style and he makes Modesty even sexier than Holdaway.

“The Hell Makers” starts with Willie kidnapped by a shadowy organization. They want to use him to put leverage on Modesty. This is a wonderful tale which (again) showcases the absolute faith that Modesty and Willie have on each other. It also includes one of the more eccentric, and entertaining, side characters ever on this comic.

In “Take Over” Italian mafia tries to take over the British underworld. The strip starts with mafia’s men training a group of British thugs to rob a bank properly. Then inspector Brooke asks Modesty to look into several robberies which have been done very precisely. Modesty declines, stating that she isn’t Batman, on a crusade against crime. But later, when Modesty is in a bank, that bank is robbed by just such a crew. They kill the security guard who Modesty knows. Now, she and Willie make it their business to find out who is behind it and stop them.

The short discussion between Brooke and Modesty makes it very clear who she is. Every adventure affects Modesty personally somehow. Even though MB strips are often marketed as “spy adventure” Modesty doesn’t work for any country. She gets involved when bad things happen to to people she cares about or some people from her past threaten her or people close to her.

“The War-Lords of Phoenix” begins with Willie and Modesty in Japan, working out with a seventy-year old master of all martial arts, Kazumi. They talk about Kazumi’s granddaughter who is about to get married. On their way to the hotel, Willie, Modesty, and Kazumi see a woman get stabbed. She’s Kazumi’s granddaughter and the man who stabbed her is her fiancee! Of course, Modesty and Willie investigate.

This is another great collection with O’Donnell at the top of his craft.

A reprint of the Modesty Blaise comic strips 13, 14B, and 15,

Publisher: Titan
Original publication years: 1968-1969
Titan publication year: 2005

The title story, Bad Suki, unfortunately shows its age: it’s about hippies who use drugs. Modesty, of course, is against all drugs (except tobacco and alcohol which they both use a lot). Willie saves a teenaged girl from diving to her death. She’s dirty and high. He takes her to Modesty’s place. Modesty bathes her and washes her clothing which the girl, Amanda, doesn’t like. However, Modesty knows that she can’t help her or anyone else who doesn’t want help. So, when Amanda briefly lectures to Modesty and Willie about their too safe lives, Modesty doesn’t say anything. Amanda leaves. But Modesty wants to know more about London’s illegal drug trade. So, she and Willie put on hippie clothes and infiltrate the scene.

The Galley Slaves: Modesty and Willie are on a cruise on a ship which is owned by Modesty’s friend. However, the owner’s friends are terrible snobs and they put down Willie at every opportunity. Ten days later, Modesty can’t stand them any longer. She and Willie simply swim away from the ship to a small island near Tahiti. They have minimal supplies but manage just fine. Willie is building a raft when they suddenly see a Roman style trireme sailing to the island.

The Red Gryphon is set in Venice. Modesty has made a new conquest, a young architect Max who is renovating an old estate for a millionaire. Modesty spots a ragged, eleven or twelve year old boy who who is running from the police. She helps him and gives a meal to him and his best friend. Meanwhile, Max starts to behave in a secretive way, saying that he found something he’s sure Modesty will love but he won’t yet talk about. But that morning, he’s found dead. Modesty must get to the bottom of it.

This story is perhaps the most “usual” of Modesty stories. But the inclusion of the two runaways who live on the streets, stealing and scamming, makes this more personal.

All the stories have great character moments. We already know that Modesty hates drugs and in Bad Suki O’Donnell really digs deep to this side of her. Galley Slaves shows the duo’s unique ethics, concerning the people they used to work with. The duo used to be criminals but even then they were only after money and didn’t hurt people unless they had to. They didn’t and still don’t respect violent criminals or people who exploit or abuse others. In the last story, the two street urchins remind Modesty (and us readers) about her childhood. On the other hand, Modesty and Willie are ruthless to their enemies in this collection.

Collects Captain Marvel issues 1-6 (2014).

Writer: Kelly Sue DeConnick
Artist: David Lopez

Carol is looking for her own place in the world – so she goes to space. In the first issue we get a glimpse of her supporting characters from her previous run, but she leaves all of them behind. Well, except her cat Chewie which she takes with her. I’m not sure I agree with her choice, in fact it seems pretty strange one and was mostly like done at Marvel at editorial level. But I really like the space adventures she gets into.

An alien girl lands on Earth in a rocket and Carol essentially saves her. Now Carol must take the girl, Tic, back. But Tic doesn’t have a home wold anymore because it was destroyed by Builders (in the 2013 Infinity event). Her race, the Nowlians, were given a planet but for some time now many of them are getting sick. Apparently, the planet is killing them. The Galactic Council wants to relocate the Nowlians but they don’t want to leave again. The girl Tic wants to bring back a hero to rescue her people.

Carol is thrust to a complex situation. She tries diplomacy and helping the Nowlians any way she can. This being a superhero comic, the situation does have a simple solution, though. Along the way, Carol makes some new friends and a pretty powerful enemy, too.

I enjoyed the comic a lot, even though I didn’t care for Carol’s reasons for leaving Earth. This is also a good place to start reading Captain Marvel.

A Buffy the Vampire Slayer book set late in the third season.

Publication year: 1999
Format: Print
Page count: 289
Publisher: Pocket Books

Buffy’s world is falling apart. Her mother Joyce has met a very nice man and is dating him.

Also, Giles seems more absentminded than before. He promised to look after Oz’s wolf form but delegated it to Angel instead. When Buffy storms off to his apartment, she finds out that he’s with a new, beautiful teacher.

At the same time, Buffy’s old friend Pike from Hemery High (from the movie) comes to Sunnydale. He’s evasive at first but confesses that a stone demon is hunting him. The demon can change any living flesh to stone. While Pike knows about vampires and demons, he fights them only when hasn’t got another choice. He’s asking Buffy for help.

Buffy’s friends try to convince her that her mom dating is completely normal, at least when the man in question seems to be completely normal. Still, it’s hard for Buffy. Of course, Buffy has her own love life to worry about when Pike comes to make trouble for her and Angel.

Giles’ absentmindedness continues so much that Buffy and the others really start to worry about him. They keep a close eye on him and, indeed, something sinister is happening to him.

This was a pretty enjoyable book otherwise but I really didn’t care for the Pike/Buffy/Angel triangle. We know that Buffy can’t choose Pike because he’s not in the show, so it’s really pointless. The stone demon was a pretty average monster of the week. The Giles story line also had something I thought couldn’t be canon at all but it was resolved at the end.

The characters are well done, of course. Golden is usually one of the best Buffy writers.

A reprint of the Modesty Blaise comic strips 10-12, 14B.

Publisher: Titan
Original publication years: 1966-1968
Titan publication year: 2005

This is another very good collection of Modesty Blaise adventures. One of them, Jericho Caper, is one of my favorites.

“The Black Pearl”: The first story is firmly rooted in 1960s mysticism. It starts in Northern Bengal with an ancient Buddhist holy man Lal. A young novice requires Lal to take up a difficult mission. Lal, is of course too old and frail to do it but someone owes him a great debt, a young woman whose life Lal saved some years ago. And Lal has a mystical means to ask for the repayment.

Modesty is coming home with a new lover, Mark, who trains soldiers for a living. At Modesty’s loft, Willie is engraving a gem. When Mark starts to admire an old amber which should have an insect inside, he notices that it’s gone. Modesty and Willie know that Lal needs them. The travel to him as soon as possible and Mark comes along, too.

Modesty and Willie are faced with a task that seem almost impossible: they must retrieve something called the Black Pearl from a Tibetan monastery in the middle of Chinese occupation. However, they don’t hesitate and Mark comes with them, too.

The task is very dangerous but it has a couple of delightful moments. Modesty must convince a group of misogynistic guerrillas to follow her. Also, they don’t know what the Black Pearl is and it’s a great! Near the beginning of the story, we get another great little snippet of Modesty’s Network days. That’s how Lal saved her life.

“The Magnified Man”: This story starts with a man who commands someone, or something, very strong to just take up a huge boulder and throw it down on a speeding car, killing the man inside.

Modesty, Willie, and sir Gerard Tarrant are on a holiday in Basque Country. Willie recognizes a girl who works for French intelligence and greets her, not realizing that she’s undercover. The moment he does, he tries to leave quickly but he thinks he has messed up her work and put her in danger. To make sure that she’s alright, Modesty and Willie tail her.

Unfortunately, Willie’s hunch is true and the head of the criminal gang orders her killed. Despite Modesty’s and Willie’s best efforts she’s badly wounded. They need to pay back.

This is more straightforward adventure story. The duo goes after a ruthless but very vain villain who is robbing a gold train and uses unusual help.

“The Jericho Caper”: This is one of my favorite stories because Modesty comes up with one of her most ingenious schemes to save the lives of her enemies and, of course, to save herself and her companions, too. Modesty is in a very small town in Middle-America, living very simply. She has also find a new lover, a former soldier who was blinded in war. Now he’s a clay sculptor. One day, three desperadoes walk to town, taking any supplies they want and three girls. Modesty wants to go after them but her new lover, Torres, restrains her. Torres explains that the three men came from a nearby town full of near-lawless men and that if Modesty had killed them, the rest would’ve destroyed the town in revenge. The small town’s priest thinks it’s his duty to go and try to get the girls back. Modesty joins him over the priest’s objections. Torres also joins them.

Like I said, this story shows Modesty’s ingeniousness. Originally, she has just one gun, a priest, and a blind man. However, Willie shows up quickly but that doesn’t even the odds much, considering that the “president” of the desperado town has hundreds of men. The story has some great comedic moments, too.

“The Killing Ground”: This is a lot shorter story. Modesty and Willie wake up, imprisoned in a boat. An old enemy, Bellman, has kidnapped them but not just to kill them. The duo will be put on a small, uninhabited Scottish island and three professional hunters will hunt them down and kill them. The duo must use all their skills to survive.

Great fun with lots of action. However, there’s also some racism which was common during the times the stories were written.

A reprint of the Modesty Blaise comic strips 7-9.

797286

Publisher: Titan
Original publication years: 1965-1966
Titan publication year: 2004

This is another very good collection of early Modesty adventures. The first one, Top Traitor, is one of my favorites.

In “Top Traitor” Willie is accidentally spending the night in Modesty’s guest room when someone breaks into Modesty’s penthouse. The burglar turns out to be James Fraser, Sir Gerard Tarrant’s right hand man and a former British Intelligence field agent. Tarrant has disappeared and a very sensitive file is missing. Tarrant’s bosses think that he has defected. Fraser doesn’t believe that but he’s watched, so he must secretly contact Modesty and Willie. Only two people, in addition to Fraser and Tarrant, have access to the file. So, one of them must be the traitor. Both are, of course, very high ranked in British intelligence. But that doesn’t stop Modesty and Willie from kidnapping them and interrogating them in their own unique way. Then, Modesty and Willie must get Tarrant back from a very secure place abroad.

This was lots of fun with elements I enjoy a lot: Modesty and Willie undercover, this time in a back country village near Germany (however, I’m sure anyone from around there would cringe to see these stereotypes), and their wit peeking through in the way the two top agents are interrogated. Also, Modesty and Willie’s absolute faith in Tarrant’s loyalty. Lovely!

“The Vikings” is a bit wilder tale. A group of modern pirates are robbing people all around the coasts from Denmark to Spain, dressed as vikings. One of the victims recognizes one of the pirates – as his own son Olaf. The Vikings are a group of young men partying just as hard as they “work”. Their leader is the hardest and wildest of the group, looking for a better challenge in soft, modern times.

Modesty and Willie are on a holiday in Sweden, ice boating. The Vikings’ victim approaches Modesty and accuses that his son, Olaf, has become a criminal because of her. It turns out that Olaf was, indeed, part of Modesty’s criminal organization, the Network, but Olaf came to her and was, in fact, a liability so Modesty isn’t eager to help him. However, Olaf is married, Modesty goes to meet with his wife. She asks Modesty’s help and Modesty agrees. But the Viking boss is delighted to get a better challenge in Modesty.

This story shows Modesty’s (and Willie’s) ethical code. Modesty wants to help Olaf’s wife and they first try to talk the Vikings’ leader to release Olaf. It’s the first real glimpse we have of the Network in action, except for the mention in “Mr. Sun” that Modesty had broken up drug smuggling rings. Later we hear that she also broke up human trafficking rings. When Modesty was doing crime, she wasn’t just robbing things randomly; she researched her targets meticulously and used as little violence as possible. The same thing is true of the next story.

“The Head Girls” starts about a month after the ending of “the Vikings”. Modesty has healed from her wounds and is vacationing in the Hebrides. Willie comes to meet her. When they head back from the beach, two men stop them. The men claim that they’re guards of the nearby government research station but Modesty knows they’re lying. Modesty and Willie knock them out and realize that they’re actually industrial spies, spying on the station. They give the men over to the station’s security. Meanwhile, in the station we find out that the station’s lead researcher’s “perfect” secretary is also a spy. When the two spies are caught, the secretary is ordered to kill them.

Meanwhile, the lead researcher has gone to meet Modesty and Willie. During their Network days, they actually stole the researcher’s previous work but sold it back to him at a reasonable price. He holds no grudge, and Modesty even asks him to spend some time with them when he’s in London. He accepts because his newest invention is ready and he’s selling it to the government. But when he gets back to London, there’s an explosion and he’s killed. Modesty and Willie investigate.

This story also refers to Modesty Network days. By all accounts, she was just the same person then: loyal to her people and with her own code of honor. In this story, too, the stakes turn out to be very personal to our heroes.

The plots in the MB strips are pretty complex. Sometimes they’re far fetched but they’re often well-thought out and enjoyable when reread, too. I very much enjoyed these ones.

A reprint of the Modesty Blaise comic strips 4-6.

1155887

Publisher: Titan
Original publication years: 1964-1965
Titan publication year: 2004

This is a another very good collection of early Modesty adventures.

“Mister Sun” is set during Vietnam War and introduces one recurring character: Weng. The story starts with Weng whose whole family died when he was quite young. Modesty found him starving on the streets and took him under her wing. She’s currently paying for his university studies. However, Weng notices something in a newspaper and then he needs need money desperately. He’s already so indebted to Modesty that he feels that he can’t ask for more. So, he goes to a local crime lord, Mr. Sun. Sun agrees to help him, but for a price. Sun knows his tie to Modesty and he hates her, so he uses Weng to put a trap for Modesty.

Modesty hears that Weng has gone missing and travels to Hong Kong to investigate. When Mr. Sun contacts her, he has a suggestion: he’ll tell her where Weng is but only if Modesty will smuggle eight kilos of heroin for Sun. If she won’t, he’ll kill Weng.

This story features a ruthless and truly evil villain. Sun is one of the biggest crime lords in Hong Kong: he’s responsible for 70% of the city’s drug trafficking. He hates Modesty, because she’s broken up his ring in the past, and wants to break her mind before killing her. He knows how much Modesty hates drugs so forcing her to smuggle it will be his triumph.

This is also the story where we see for the first time a practice fight between Modesty and Willie. They practice as hard as they can: only softening killing or incapacitating blows. This time, as many other times, they use martial arts without weapons.

Despite his progressive views on feminism, O’Donnell does have his drawbacks as well, namely racism and homophobia. This story was written in 1964 and it shows: the Asian characters are very stereotypical, either evil or submissive to white rule.

“The Mind of Mrs Drake” starts with Mrs. Drake who is a psychic; when she touches an object she gets impressions of future or current events happening to the item’s owner. We know right from the start that she’s up to no good because she’s scheming with sinister looking chap called Korzon. She’s worried because a client has written a full confession which presumably would expose her and Korzon. Korzon reassures her that it will be taken care of. Next, Drake does a reading for her client and a little later Korzon kills the client.

Then Modesty enters the story. She’s playing tennis with a beautiful blonde Jeannie. Jeannie is actually Tarrant’s agent, working for British intelligence. Tarrant has sent her to be bait for Mrs. Drake and Jeannie is a bit scared of the job. However, she continues with it. Then Jeannie is kidnapped from her father’s home, right from the living room. Her father is a retired Navy agent and now blind. When Tarrant tells Modesty and Willie what happened, she sets up an appointment with Drake, determined to get Jeannie back.

This story clearly illustrates Modesty’s and Willie’s loyalty to any person who they consider their friend. If anything happens to any of them, they’ll walk through fire to set things right again. The ending also shows their kindness. Interestingly enough, Jeannie’s father, Mr. Challon, has a major part late in the story. He’s blind but his other senses have grown stronger to compensate for that and he proves to be very useful in a unusual situation. In later stories, O’Donnell has another blind person who can “see” with their ears.

In “Uncle Happy” Modesty is on a holiday in San Diego diving and harpooning fish. When she harpoons one big seabass, a very cranky underwater photographer, Steve Taylor, yells at her for ruining his photo. Of course, he can’t resist her, and they become lovers. After a few days, they go to Las Vegas. But while they’re playing in one of the casinos, Modesty sees a strange looking man glaring at her new lover. Later, two thugs kidnap Steve intending to murder him. Luckily, Modesty is there to stop it. She has questions to him and Steve has questions about her, but instead of resolving things, Steve leaves.

A couple of days later, Willie arrives. Apparently, one of his previous girlfriends has been murdered and the person responsible is the strange looking man in the casino. The man pretends to be a philanthropist and the press even calls him Uncle Happy. He has a island for disenfranchised kids, mostly girls. Modesty and Willie are determined to find out what’s going on. Steve also shows up.

These were good, early adventures with meticulous plotting and lots of action.

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