comics


A reprint of the Modesty Blaise comic strips 22, 23, and 24.

Publisher: Titan
Original publication years: 1971-1972
Titan publication year: 2006

“The Stone Age Caper” is set in Australia. Modesty is vacationing with her new boyfriend David Collins when her old acquaintance Wu Smith comes by to warn Modesty not to buy anything for a while. Smith and his buddy are doing a heist and don’t want her involved. Meanwhile, Willie riding a camel in a desert. He comes across a wounded, pretty girl who says some people are after her. He takes her to an abandoned village to nurse her back to consciousness. He and Modesty communicate through radio and she decides to fly to him on a small plane. Wu Smith’s associates want her dead.

This story shows its age in dialog when Modesty and Willie are talking about the aboriginal Australians. They’re called “Abo” which would be quite offensive these days. On the other hand, one of the aboriginals in this strip was in Modesty’s criminal Network and clearly Modesty and Willie respect him and his skills. And there’s also a mention that the aboriginals don’t want to mess with the white men no matter what the white men do, because aboriginals know they will be blamed, no matter what. The aboriginals are clearly heroic in the story.

“The Puppet Master” is one of the most intense MB comics. The story starts with a chess game that the bad guys are playing. An elderly doctor Baum analyses the others’ moves. Next, Modesty is driving near Naples when she sees that a car has hit a donkey. She comes out of the car and the men attack her. She fights but one of them manages to inject her with a tranquilizer. She tries to fight but the drug overwhelms her.

Meanwhile, Willie is training Tarrant’s agents, especially a pretty new agent Maude. Tarrant comes in and tells Willie that Modesty’s car has been found; she’s been killed in the crash. They travel to Italy. Her body hasn’t been found abd Willie refuses to believe she’s dead. He remains in Italy to look for her. Tarrant thinks that Modesty’s is dead but he orders Maude to remain with Willie, to comfort and help him but also to learn from him.

The bad guys have, indeed, kidnapped Modesty and they’re brainwashing her to kill Willie.

One of my favorite tropes is the amnesia story line and I love this one. The bad guys try to convince Modesty that they’re her friends and she’s part of their criminal gang. Willie has sworn to kill her. Meanwhile, Willie and Maude are going through the Italian underworld. Maude is a smart and capable agent, but just learning the job. She appears in a couple of later strips, too.

“With Love From Rufus” is a more comedic story. Someone breaks into Modesty’s penthouse. He breaks to her safe which has been modified by Willie, so it’s not easy. However, in the morning she notices the break in and realizes that nothing has been taken and a bouquet of roses has been left in the safe with a note that they’re from Rufus.

Modesty is astonished and charmed. She meets with Scotland Yard’s inspector Brooke. He talks about a new genius jewel thief in London and introduces his young nephew Rufus to Modesty. Rufus is a huge fan of both Modesty and Willie. He gushes over her criminal exploits. When they go to Modesty’s car, three men attack them but Modesty fights them off. In her apartment, Willie has come to a surprise visit and is shocked to learn that the youngster has broken into the safe.

Modesty and Willie try to warn Rufus away from a life of crime, but Rufus is proud of his skills as a burglar and wants Modesty to fence the jewels he’s taken. Modesty is in a terrible position as Brooke’s friend. But when Rufus is kidnapped, the game turns deadly.

Rufus is around twenty but Modesty feels that she’s much older than him. His admiration feels uncomfortable to her but Willie (and the readers) think it’s funny.

All three are very good stories and I enjoyed them a lot.

Collects the miniseries issues 1-4.

Writer: Rob Williams
Artists: Steve Scott, Nathan Massengill, Bart Sears, Randy Elliott

In 1931, three eminent archaeologists found something incredible in Siberia. Five years later, one of them asks Indy to come and meet with him. Indy arrives, but so do the Nazis. They interrogate Indy roughly but he knows even less than they do. Indy manages to escape and finds the archaeologist. They run but the Nazis shoot the archaeologist. He manages to give Indy a mysterious dark stone full of hieroglyphs and a name: Beresford-Hope. A mysterious woman knocks Indy unconscious and robs the piece.

Indy and Marcus head to Siberia where Beresford-Hope was last seen.

This was a fast-paced story that held mostly together. The obligatory beautiful woman, who is apparently there just to take her shirt off, is this time a third party who doesn’t have ties to either Indy or the Nazis.

This was a quick and fun short adventure with Indy and Marcus running all over the world. But the ending was bit of a cop-out. For die-hard Indy fans only.

A reprint of the Modesty Blaise comic strips 19, 20, and 21.

Publisher: Titan
Original publication years: 1970-1971
Titan publication year: 2005

This collection starts Romero’s long run as MB artist. All three stories are fun and wacky.

“Willie the Djinn” is set in a small country in the Middle East. The story starts in a casino where sheikh Kadhim Al-Mashaf has played a lot of backgammon against Modesty and he’s lost a lot. He wants to continue playing against her and even Willie can’t hide Modesty from him. Meanwhile, Willie has found a group of dancing girls whose manager has ditched them. When the sheikh offers a job to the girls, they only agree if Willie will come with them as a chaperon. Willie’s of course shocked and Modesty comes along, as well, to make sure Willie behaves.

However, when they’re in the sheikh’s plane, one of the girls finds a bomb which takes down the plane. A coup is in progress and Modesty and the girls land right in the middle of it.

This story has even more sexy girls and male gaze than is usual for Romero’s MB. It’s also got a lot of funny moments right from the start when Modesty is trying to hide from the sheikh’s servant and later when Willie convinces a little girl that he’s a djinn… sadly, without magic.

“The Green Eyed Monster” is set in a small country in South America. Modesty has a new boyfriend, zoologist Gil de Serra. Gil’s very jealous ex-girlfriend comes to chew out Modesty but Modesty tosses her to a pool. However, when the jealous ex, who is the daughter of the local British ambassador, is kidnapped Modesty, Willie, and Gil set out to rescue her from the group of revolutionaries.

This story again shows us that Modesty has compassion even for people who insult her. This story has also several humorous scenes, but they’re set after the half-way point.

While “Death of a Jester” is set in a British castle, O’Donnell manages to bring exoticism to that place, too. One of Tarrant’s British Intelligence operatives was assigned to investigate a group of highly skilled and eccentric former army commandos who are now mercenaries. The operative is killed by a knight on a horse, under the eyes of two very shocked teens. The operative was dressed as a jester.

The mercenaries enjoy dressing up as medieval knights and hunting people in the castle’s park. Modesty and Willie infiltrate them, assuming the roles of bored wealthy people.

The medieval shenanigans are just hilarious.

I throughly enjoyed this collection, as well.

Bone is a black and white fantasy comic about three cousins called Bone. They all look rather strange, but humanoid, and they don’t wear much clothing. Fone only wears gloves, Phoney wears a shirt with a star, and Smiley wears a vest. Fone Bone is the main hero: a dependable and decent man. Phoncible “Phoney” is the opposite of Fone: a ruthless and opportunistic business man/cheater. Smiley is an easy-going man but thoughtless and Phoney can often drag him into helping in his newest scheme.

The three cousins are driven out of their home time Boneville when Phoney’s latest scheme goes wrong. They’re wandering in a desert and are separated when a huge cloud of locusts attack. After the attack, we follow Fone who is increasingly desperate to find water. Luckily, Fone finds the Valley. Two large rat creatures try to eat him but he manages to escape and he sees a red dragon. In the end, he make a few friends among the talking animals and must spend the winter. Then, he find a human looking girl Thorn and immediately falls in love with her. Thorn lives with her eccentric grandmother and cows in a small hut in the forest. She welcomes Fone and agrees to help him find his cousins. But the rat creatures and their leaders really want to get their hands on the Bone cousins.

Bone is a mixture of comic scenes and fantasy. The Valley seems to have medieval type (lack of) tech: the locals don’t use money but barter and they use horses and cows instead of motorized vehicles. Also, the Valley seems to be the only place which has the rat creatures and dragon. Fone’s favorite book is Moby Dick and he brought comics with him. But we don’t really know much about Boneville.

The fantasy parts in the book can be quite dark at times, which is a sharp contrast between the cute talking animals and the funny parts. However, for me, that’s part of the charm. But I still don’t really care for the romance.

The comic has several endearing and eccentric characters. Thorn’s grandmother is one: she runs fo 20 kilometers a day for fun and competes in the cow races. She clearly knows more than she’s telling to Thorn and Fone. There are also the two rat creatures. While the rest of their species are clearly a Horde of Evil, the two we keep meeting are the bumbling fools of the pack.

I read this comic when it was first released here in Finland in the 1990s. The reread is proving to be just as enjoyable as the first read.

A six issue limited series.

Publication year: 1985
Publisher: Epic Comics, reprinted as a collection by Dark Horse

This is a very interesting mix of English myths, fairy tales, and history.

King Henry II has died recently. His country is divided and his heir Richard the Lionheart is away at war. James Dunreith, Duke of Ca’rynth, has been in exile for 25 years but because of Henry’s death, he thinks it’s safe to return. He’s wrong. He has barely stepped to England’s shore when knights capture him and bring him to a monastery as a prisoner. There, he’s tortured because the Church thinks that he’s a heretic and a sorcerer. However, a group of mysterious knights rescue him, but none too gently.

It turns out, that Queen Eleanor knows that James is back and needs his services. James’ childhood friend, a powerful Earl, is suspected not just of treason but of black magic. Eleanor sends James to find out what’s going on. James is reluctant but feels duty-bound to obey. On the way, James is reunited with his old friend Brian Griffin and they rescue a young lady from outlaws.

James has traveled a lot, all the way to Cathay. He’s a man of reason and doesn’t even believe in magic, even though the Church claims he uses it. However, he’s not aged while away from England and right in the first issue, he sees a dream (or is it a dream) of a huge black dragon who heals James’ tortured body. So, it’s clear that something supernatural is going on.

The story uses a lot of English myths. Robin Hood is a major secondary character, which was a pleasant surprise to me. Various fairies also appear.

Bolton’s art fits the story well. The English countryside looks gorgeous. The art reminds me of Hal Foster’s Prince Valiant.

However, this is a very dark tale, full of betrayal, blood, and dark magic. It’s very different in tone from his X-Men work.

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.

Collects Avengers 1-6 (2018). Part of Marvel’s Fresh Start relaunch.

Writer: Jason Aaron
Artists: Ed McGuinness, Mark Morales, Jay Leisten, Paco Medina, Juan Vlasco

At least in mainstream superhero comics the saying “the more things change, the more they stay the same” is true. And so it is also with the newest Avengers relaunch.

Steve is young again and Cap. Tony is out of his coma and Iron Man again. Thor is… almost back to his old self but without Mjolnir. He does have another hammer, though. They get together in a bar. Steve wants them to reform the Avengers but Tony is against it. However, when dead Celestials (space gods) start falling out of the sky, Tony puts his differences with Steve aside.

Meanwhile, the Black Panther and Doctor Strange are going to the Earth’s core… to find giant insects which have been down there for millions of years but they’re not starting to wake up. They also find symbols, pictures thousands of years old, of people who look like the Avengers.

Jennifer Walters is having trouble controlling her Hulk-side. The Ghost Rider is acting up and his host Robbie is concerned. Captain Marvel and the Alpha Flight station are trying to contain the threat from space but it looks like it’s too much for them.

Finally, we have Odin who tells us the story when he and his buddies got together a million years ago to make a final stand against one Celestial. His group back then looked very familiar and I’d like to read more of them. Except that they’re humans. Who didn’t exist back then.

Basically, it’s a decent end-of-the-world plot that brings a group of bickering superbeings together. I don’t really understand why Ghost Rider had to be here, though. I also didn’t care for the change in Jennifer. I really hope Aaron resolves her issues; she’s clearly here as a substitute Hulk and not as herself. Also, Carol acted really strange. Maybe she has some guilt issues, but she shouldn’t take them out on her (future) teammates. Loki (or rather some other being who looks like Loki) is teaming up with the Celestials against humanity. (After reading Loki Agent of Asgard… this isn’t the same person. Clearly, it’s an evil twin from an alternative reality.)

For some reason, the team doesn’t gel together for me at all. They don’t feel like family, in fact they don’t even like each other.

Interestingly, this story changes the origin of the superbeings on Earth. We’ve known for a long time that Celestials messed with humans back in the dawn of humanity which created the Eternals and Inhumans. Apparently this was true only from a certain point of view. Or it depends on who you believe. Personally, I also find it fascinating that this story also changes people from “created” beings (by cosmic beings but still) to “accidents” or even “unwanted accidents”. That’s a pretty interesting shift for the Marvel universe.

Also, Eternals are now dead?? I thought their movie is soon coming out?? Seems like a very strange move… unless they’re returned to life at some later date. Maybe a whole story arc about bringing them back?

This was a rocky start for the relaunch. I hope Aaron finds his feet with the team.

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.

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