The Paradise Plot and The Golden Ghost Review

The Paradise Plot is another collection of old James Bond newspaper comic strips from The Daily Express and was published by Titan Books as this graphic novel in 2008. The Paradise Plot was written by Jim Lawrence with art by John McLusky and is 104 pages long in total. There are two stories here - The Paradise Plot and Deathmask - and until this graphic novel appeared a few years ago neither had seen the light of day since appearing in the Daily Express in the early eighties. As usual, you get a few extra features and bits and pieces with the compilation volume. There is an introduction by the actor David Hedison (who played Felix Leiter in Live and Let Die and Licence To Kill) and an exclusive feature on some rare James Bond comics from around the world. These black and white Bond strips might seem a tad twee at times to modern readers used to more spectacular and colourful graphic novels but they are rather stylish and enjoyably old-fashioned in addition to being an important part of the history of James Bond in all his various incarnations.
The Paradise Plot story begins with the wealthy industrialist Basil Dearden being kidnapped after witnessing his late daughter appearing to him as an angel. Bond was present but was knocked out before he could expose this apparition as something dubious. Max Hoch, Arden's rival, visited him recently but, after a car smash, he was revealed to have some sort of electrode fitted in his brain at the hospital. Obviously, something very odd is going on. Both Hoch and Arden are linked to Father Star - a charismatic speaker and leader of a cult group who have become very powerful. Star's real name is Gabriel Starvosky. James Bond investigates Star and the trail leads him to Project Polestar on Estrellita Island in the West Indies. 007 pretends he is a former spy now for hire (an old ruse of his) and manages to become a part of Star's organisation so he can snoop around from the inside and see exactly what this mysterious character is up to...
The Paradise Plot is relatively good fun and has elements that remind one of Ian Fleming's Thunderball novel - with Star having control of a USAF plane and its pilot Major Calvin Shaw. Some of the plot here is slightly reminiscent too of the 1997 film Tomorrow Never Dies when Star uses a nuclear-powered dirigible to attack his enemies in stealth fashion with this craft. Bond's infiltration of Star's organisation is derivative of many Bond books and films but enjoyable nonetheless. Having been reading the Horak illustrated Bond strips, it's interesting here to have art by the famous John McLusky instead to compare. McLusky's art is a trifle more old-fashioned than the stuff by Horak but in a good way. Bond and the various characters seem more 'classic' here somehow and look great. The strip was published in 1981 and - as usual with these strips - fuses different continuities and universes within the world of James Bond. So here we have the addition of Q'ute/Ann Reilly to Q branch, Q'ute a feature in John Gardner's (then brand new) series of continuation Bond novels. Other interesting things of note in The Paradise Plot are Bond deploying his backpack helicopter again and apparently receiving a knighthood! Given the amount of times he has saved the world, I think it's probably only fair that 007 got one before Bruce Forsyth.
The other story is called Deathmask. In Deathmask, there have been a rash of strange deaths that left the faces of the unfortunate victims all swollen. A virus is most likely to be the culprit but by who and for what reason? When a dead agent is found with a Greek deathmask in Tangiers, James Bond investigates and the trail soon leads him to Istanbul where another stricken agent (an enemy agent in this case) splutters the word 'Minos' before he dies. The plot thickens when yet another death occurs, this time in Crete, with a diver muttering the word 'Minotaur' before his demise. Bond investigates a cave near where the diver was found and discovers a huge mask symbol there. He learns from his contacts that this is the symbol of a company named Minos Ltd and his attention then turns to businessman Ivor Nyborg...
This is another decent strip in the Express Bond collection and has a nice range of locations from Tangiers to the South of France. It has a vague Colonel Sun feeling with the Mediterranean locations at times. M, Moneypenny, Q'ute, Bill Tanner and Suzie Kew all feature and there are some echoes of Goldfinger here with the grand scheme involving releasing a virus from a special automatic plane known as the Global Ghost. Ivor Nyborg, the villain of the piece, has a few Flemingesque touches too. He suffers from acromegaly - a condition that makes hands, feet and faces look swollen - and basically wants the whole world to look like him by any means possible. McLusky's art is again excellent and provides a nice backdrop for the story supplied by Jim Lawrence. This is not the greatest of the Bond strips I've read but it's a solid addition to the genre and has some nice touches, including Bond having to do a bit of detective work when the deaths start to occur.
The Paradise Plot is another enjoyable read for anyone who has been picking up these collections and although you only get two stories here this is perhaps of extra interest as it features art by John McLusky (the majority of these collections are illustrated by Horak). The strips are naturally a little dated in places (I'm not personally convinced that James Bond would ever call anyone 'luv'!) but do have certain polish and bit of old-fashioned charm. The Paradise Plot is a good read for anyone interested in James Bond or British comics and a nice addition to the Titan range of Bond graphic novels.
The Golden Ghost was published by Titan Books in 2006. The collected graphic novel from Titan contains four different stories - The Golden Ghost Fear Face, Double Jeopardy, Star Fire - and is 120 pages long. The strips were written by Jim Lawrence with art by Yaroslav Horak and first appeared in the early seventies. There are a few bits and pieces with the comic strips including a short introduction by Richard (Jaws) Kiel of The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker fame, a Syndicated newspaper comic strip checklist, and a feature on Bond's cars. The seventies Bond strips (which had run out of Fleming stories and constructed their own plots) were bonkers at times and often a lot of fun as a result. They are of course somewhat dated and some of Bond's dialogue doesn't feel right (calling people 'luv' and 'mate') but the strips suceeded in creating their own little Bondian world with effective art and many entertaining stories.
The first story is called The Golden Ghost. The story begins with SPECTRE boss Madame Spectra offering MI6 secret information about various nefarious plots in return for money. As insurance they want to hold James Bond until the deal is complete but also send MI6 valueable diamonds (to be returned at a later date) to show their good faith. Bond agrees and travels to Cannes but the SPECTRE operative he meets is murdered by another group. He manages to mutter the words '' before his death. Bond's subsequent investigation leads him to Bridget Penwyn, a witch who is predicting much trouble for The Golden Ghost, a nuclear powered airship about to launch its maiden flight in Britain. When Penwyn is murdered and he notices Golden Ghost insignias on a lighter, a suspicious Bond decides he will book himself on the maiden flight of the airship and investigate...
The Golden Ghost is a lot of fun with one or two reservations. It has a good villain in Felix Bruhl and the airship capers are nicely done on the whole with Bond undercover and having to face one or two tricky cliffhanger situations before the mission is over. The story is quite good and it was a nice touch to have SPECTRE attempt to gain financial reward for information that would presumably harm their criminal rivals. It would actually make a lot more sense (not that James Bond is ever supposed to make perfect sense!) for them to do things like this rather than try and take over the world in a hollowed out volcano or whatever. M, Moneypenny and Tanner all appear in this story and it was nice to see Madame Spectra too. The main quibble with The Golden Ghost though revolves around some of the dialogue. Bond, for reasons best known to the writer, says things like 'Me old luv!' and 'Blimey!'. He's supposed to be an elite secret agent and urbane expense account snob.
The second story is Fear Face. This one revolves around Briony Thorne, a former MI6 agent codenamed 0013. Briony is a wanted woman because MI6 believe she has betrayed them and now works for the Chinese. In desperation, she turns to old flame James Bond, the only person she can trust and the only person who could help. Briony tells Bond that she has been framed by a man named Ferenc Kress and that Kress is somehow involved with a company named Magnus Mining and a man named Lambert. Magnus Mining have just made a major ore discovery and a search throws up the name Sir Ivor Lambert, a character involved in robotics. What in the name of George Lazenby is going on? The James Bond comic strips seemed to get increasingly far out and sci-fi in the seventies and Fear Face is a daft but entertaining example. It's like an episode of The Avengers or Dr Who at times with robotic capers involving, er, robots, and quite a decent central McGuffin with Briony feeling all alone with the security services after her. The plot becomes needlessly complicated at times but there are one or decent villains and Horak's art is pleasant and effective once again. You probably couldn't get away with this in a Bond film (even in the seventies with Roger Moore) but it makes a fun comic anyway.
The third story is called Double Jeopardy. The story revolves around strange deaths and behaviour by various important people in different locations. A director at the Manhattan Museum of Art steals some paintings and is found dead. Aristide Brizaud, head of Brizaud Chemicals, appears to steal his own industrial formula and is then murdered and Lady Cynthia Winter, the wife of a top Ministry of Defence official, is blackmailed when a cheeky snap of what appears to be her (although she says it can't be) is sent. Something very strange is going on and Bond's investigations seem to point to Pujar, a known agent of SPECTRE. Double Jeopardy is another entertaining strip that veers into sci-fi territory, reminding one slightly of films like Westworld and The Stepford Wives. The grand scheme at the heart of the story is a lot of fun and targets all manner of notable people around the world. The story moves from New York to Morocco at a brisk pace and there are a few gadgets (a suitcase that fires bullets!) and a dash of Fleming's trademark sadism when 007 is tortured with electrodes. It's nice to see Bond undercover again too, this time as Jeremy Blade of the London Ornithological Society.
The final story is called Star Fire. The story begins with Sir Robert Wullum rescuing his daughter from a hippy cult group run by 'Lord Astro' and recieving a pendent from a man called Luke Quantrill. Sir Robert is killed by a fireball ('starfire') that may or may not be retribution from the mysterious Astro. More deaths occur as scientists and journalists who have criticised Astro are killed by the fireball. James Bond teams up with a CIA agent named Perelli and their attention soon turns to the mysterious Luke Quantrill. They duly set off for Paris to look into his affairs. Star Fire, despite the fireball shenanigans, is probably the most down and earth and simple of the strips on offer here and this approach is certainly not without its rewards. Bond simple has an investigation to conduct and isn't saddled with robot people, a love interest, giant gorillas and nuclear airships or whatever. While I love the far out fantastical stories in these compilations, the more straight ahead espionage yarn offered here is fun too.
The Golden Ghost is another fun James Bond collection from Titan and anyone who has been picking these up or is interested in James Bond and British comics will be happy to add it to their bookshelf.
- Jake

c 2012 Alternative 007