Death Wing Review

'The legend continues! Stand by for more adventures with the world's greatest secret agent, as some of his most thrilling missions are collected for the first time ever!'

Death Wing is a collection of famous old James Bond comic strips from The Daily Express and was published by Titan books as a graphic novel in 2007. The collected volume is 104 pages long and was written by Jim Lawrence with art by Yaroslav Horak. The book includes three stories - Death Wing, Sea Dragon and When the Wizard Awakes - with Sea Dragon seeing the light of day in Britain for the first time. Death Wing also includes an item about James Bond in American comics and an introduction by actress (and seventies television comedy staple) Madeline Smith who played Miss Caruso in Live and Let Die, famously having her dress unzipped by Bond's magnetic watch. These strips are a bit dated of course but good fun with Bond having some of the insouciant charm and darkly handsome good looks lacking in the film incarnation lately.

The Death Wing story has Bond investigating a certain Miss Brewer, a spy he catches attempting to stick her nose into some top secret RAF tests that are being conducted. After this breach of security, Bond has to track down and investigate her employers - who turn out to be Worldwing Air Freight Ltd. Worldwing Air Freight Ltd have a very dodgy boss named Matteo Mortellito and Bond must gain his confidence in his usual way to learn more about what this company is up to. Death Wing is rather good fun with a plot involving aerial smugglers and an enjoyably Bond villain scheme involving nasty flying vehicles. The story travels from London to Mexico to Las Vegas to New York and there are appearances by Tanner, Moneypenny, M and Suzie Kew - who Bond teams up with again. Yaroslav Horak's art is quietly effective as usual, somehow being both minimalist and striking, and there are a couple of interesting female characters too for Bond to match wits with in the form of Miss Brewer and Mortellito's assistant Jessabel Kane. Miss Brewer leads Bond a merry dance before he gets his act together.

The Sea Dragon story is an enjoyably bonkers one that rattles along at a brisk pace. Sir Ivor Morlock is on his boat fishing in the Bahamas when James Bond arrives, as you do, in a jet-pack helicopter to warn him that his life is in danger and he should return to dry land and go into protective custody. Sir Ivor waves away the warnings though and insists he is perfectly safe. He then reels in a scantily clad woman who disentangles herself from his fishing line and disappears underwater. A deeply suspicious Bond dives in after her but as he does so the boat explodes, killing Sir Ivor. It seems the woman was an assassin who had planted mines on the hull. Bond wakes up in hospital where an attempt is made on his life by a nurse. Some investigating links the woman who killed Sir Ivor with the nurse. Both had either a statue or a tattoo of a fertility god known as 'Magna Mater' and the statuettes have all been bought by a female run company called She Unlimited. Bond decides to drop in, quite literally, on She Unlimited's London skyscraper to get acquainted with their boss Magda Mathers. 

Sea Dragon is a lot of fun with a slightly fantastical air (Bond dropping in on the palatial She Unlimited headquarters in a little helicopter and pretending he's broke down) and the central mystery of why various people are being targeted is always suitably interesting. There are also capers with a (apparent) sea monster that evoke Dr No and lots of intrigue. The illustrations of the sea monster are nicely done by Yaroslav Horak. This particular story is very daft and very seventies - with women walking around with no clothes on and Bond a bit Richard O'Sullivan in a cheeky seventies comedy - but good fun on the whole. I enjoyed Sea Dragon a lot and it's a cracking little story in its collected form with some nice panels set on the water and in London.

The last story, When the Wizard Awakes, suffers from a preposterously complicated plot that grows rather wearing fairly quickly. James Bond and agent Lilla Kerenyi must prove that Zoltan Toth, a traitor to the Hungarian resistance, died in 1956. When they open his tomb though a bomb goes off - which naturally Bond survives. It turns out that Mafia boss Attila Toth is trying to blackmail the Hungarian government by claiming Zoltan is alive and has smuggled the Crown of St Stephen out of Hungary. Or something. The plot also contrives to draw in SPECTRE, the CIA, the Russians, Fort Knox and a missile targeting system.

When the Wizard Awakes is a disappointing affair in contrast to the other stories in the volume for the principal reason that the plot is far too twisty and needlessly complex - not to mention rather dull. The art is enjoyable but the story is far too convoluted for its own good. The best part of When the Wizard Awakes is probably the hang-glider capers that Bond deploys to arrive at a castle. The principal locations of this story are Hungary and Vienna and M, Moneypenny and Bill Tanner all make (very) brief appearances. Any potential this story might have had is rather lost in the somewhat confusing plot.

Death Wing is another enjoyable collection of Bond strips from the Express and a fun read for anyone interested in James Bond or comics/newspaper strips in general. One of the stories is a trifle dull and the strips are obviously dated but they are still full of interest and very entertaining with the famous illustrations by Yaroslav Horak and the often exciting plots involving all the characters we've come to know through Ian Fleming's books and the series of films produced by Cubby Broccoli.
- Jake


c 2010 Alternative 007