COMIC REVIEW: The James Bond Omnibus Volume 004

As Bond celebrates his 50th anniversary with Skyfall in UK cinemas and the Top 40 we take a look at a mammoth collection of newspaper strips from the early 1970s. Taken from the pages of The Express newspaper these stories from 1971-1975 (and a couple printed in the 80s) don’t include any which have seen the cinematic treatment but all the familiar tropes are here.

In total there are nine stories, each laid out in the classic “three panel strip” with four strips per page. Multiply that by almost 300 pages and you’re left with…err…a lot of content! I’m a fast reader, I can devour a good few modern trades in a single sitting but this collection took me a three or four weeks to work through.

Whilst all the usual Bond elements are here (girls, guns, gadgets) this is closer to Fleming’s novels than the majority of the films. This 007 is at times conflicted about the role he has to play but also callous and manipulative, willing to risk the lives of others to complete his mission.

For a secret agent he’s not too good at keeping his identity much of a secret, but I did like the way he co-opts an identity which he uses in a few of the adventures. He’s not quite as suave as the James we’re used to. The dialogue seems odd coming out of his mouth, referring to women as “luv” and saying things like “blimey” or making references to Scooby Doo. It’s a little odd and at times can detract a little from the story.

The plots are a little contrived, there’s a mcguffin to be found or a plot to be foiled, there’s a damsel in distress or a femme fatale to be conquered, there’s a villain (foreign with an unusual physical or psychological trait)…but let’s be honest, Bond has never been about beautiful stories and wonderful character development.

The art by Yaroslav Horak is well rendered, particularly locations and vehicles. You’d spot it as a newspaper strip a mile off, there’s just something about the layout of the panels.

It’s a product of its time so the treatment of other sexes, races and nationalities is pretty ham-fisted by modern standards. Whilst the Bond films were risqué they had to contend with film classifications, whereas being from British newspapers the female characters in these stories are falling over themselves to fall out of their clothes. Toplessness abounds, and the plot devices used to get it to happen are pretty clunky. My favourite has to be the woman who strips to her underwear so that she can whip Bond “more effectively,” it’s just so ridiculous.

Overall I enjoyed the stories, I’ll be keeping an eye out for the other volumes in the series.

Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Dave W

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