The Girl Machine

'The legend continues! Stand by for more adventures with the world's greatest and most famous secret agent, James Bond, as some of his most thrilling missions are collected for the first time ever! This bumper action-packed volume collects ultra rare Bond stories that have not been seen since their original syndication between 1973-74!'   
The Girl Machine is a graphic novel from Titan Books and was first published in 2009. This is another collection of old James Bond newspaper comic strips written by Jim Lawrence with art by Yaroslav Horak and contains three stories - The Girl Machine, Beware of Butterflies and The Nevsky Nude. These strips are very much of their time but generally good fun and of particular interest for anyone who likes James Bond or British comics. The Girl Machine is 104 pages in total and also features some never before seen Bond art as a special feature.  
The Girl Machine story finds James Bond attempting to restore Emir Nasreddin of Hajar to his throne instead of his Uncle and thus stop Britain from losing vital oil rights in the country. Bond's main line of inquiry concerns Abu Rashid in Las Palmas but someone is obviously out to get Rashid before Bond can speak to him. He turns his attention to Rashid's sister Zebeide - one of the wives of the Regent who is holding Nasreddin - in an attempt to smuggle himself into Hajar and take a more active role on the ground in the mission to put Emir Nasreddin back in charge.   
The Girl Machine is one of the most exciting and inventive of the strips by Lawrence and Horak and has more of an epic feel with a good deal of invention and some nice visual flourishes. Highlights include a tough scrap between Bond and the Regent's henchman Rimel and a long chase to get to the border safely. Bond's ruse to get into Hajar is an interesting one too. He's hidden in a 'feminorama' - a box that contains scents, alcohol and, er, videos of women. It is essentially an attempt to bribe the Regent with a host of decadent and dubious goodies. They should have tried the same thing with Saddem Hussein maybe. By all accounts he was a big fan of Quality Street. Bill Tanner and Moneypenny are on hand to assist Bond in the story too and it's great fun on the whole despite one or two rather unBondian lines from our hero. 'I never did dig that Light Brigade jive!'  
Beware of Butterflies is a very twisty strip that is somewhat reminiscent of Fleming's The Man with the Golden Gun and You Only Live Twice novels in places. The story begins with Bond and Suzie Kew on a mission in Paris to kill Orsk, an agent with the Butterfly Eastern European spy network. On leave in Jamaica after the mission though, Bond is kidnapped by Attila, the head of this organisation. Attila wants Bond to help save an Albanian scientist named Mehmet Istvan who 007 once helped to defect. Bond is placed under hypnosis and sent to Hong Kong where he helps Attila's men kidnap Istvan. Suzie Kew is then sent to look for Bond with events soon becoming even more complicated and dangerous.  

Beware of Butterflies is a solid addition to the Lawrence and Horak body of work and has a good villain and plenty of intrigue and twists and turns. The memory loss and hypnosis elements are a nice nod to Fleming and the strip marks the debut of the Suzie Kew character as a freshly minted 00 agent. M, Tanner and Moneypenny all appear in the story and the different range of locations from Paris to Hong Kong inspires some nice art from Horak. Nice range of gadgets here too. Bond uses a signet ring detonator, has a radio in his watch and a smoke cannister in the heel of his shoe.  
The Nevsky Nude is one of more eccentric strips in the collection and is quite enjoyable for its more far-out elements. In The Nevsky Nude, the British Secret Service have received word of a certain Operation Nevsky and a map of Sussex. SMERSH agent Ludmilla skydives naked from a plane which contains the renegade aristocrat Sir Ulric Herne. Herne, as you do, broadcasts a message purporting to be from King Arthur's ghost which asks the people of Britain to rise up in glory. Bond apprehends Ludmilla and her contact on the ground and, like many people who become involved with 007, they subsequently end up dead. Bond is sort of like Charles Bronson in the Death Wish films sometimes. Anyone he meets has a fair chance of meeting their maker before the week is out. Our hero searches the contact's flat and the mystery deepens when he finds a map of the Cornish coastline where strange ghostly knights have been sighted recently. Could this all have something to do with Lord Melrose, the Secretary of State for Defence?   
The Nevsky Nude is quite good fun and has a faint Randall & Hopkirk/Scooby-Doo meets Ian Fleming meets The Daily Express feel about it. Sir Ulric Herne is a not bad villain and the ghostly goings on are modestly refreshing as a break from all the East/West spy capers and murky political intrigue. The usual supporting cast of characters are present and correct too although there is a vague sense of confusion over the plot in this one. It appears some early plot threads in the story were discarded in terms of featuring in the later portion of the strip and therefore seem slightly out of place when placed in the context of The Nevsky Nude as a whole.  
On the whole, this is another enjoyable James Bond collection from Titan with Horak's effective art and three entertaining stories. Recommended for fans of comics and James Bond.
- Jake


c 2011 Alternative 007