The James Bond Omnibus Vol. 005
By Jim Lawrence (scripts) and Jaroslav Horak (art)
Titan Books, Trade Paperback, 271 pages, $19.95 US
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James Bond is back in this latest installment of Titan Books’ omnibus collections of classic newspaper comic strips by Jim Lawrence (also known for scripting later iterations of the classic Joe Palooka and Buck Rogers adventure comic strips) and artist Yaroslav Horak.
The comic strips, originally published in the UK newspaper The Daily Express, began in the late 1950s with direct adaptations of the original Ian Fleming novels. By 1968, that well had run dry and writer Jim Lawrence adapted the licensed Bond novel by Kingsley Amis, Colonel Sun, before moving on to entirely original works.
If, like the majority of casual Bond fans, you’re only used to the world’s most famous secret agent through his films, making the mental shift to the crueler, colder Bond of the novels and comics strips can be a bit odd. The “Bond girls” in the strips reprinted in The James Bond Omnibus 005 spend quite a bit of their time topless – quite a shocker for a North American audience unused to the more laissez-faire attitude of UK media – and Bond himself tends to call them a dismissive “luv.” In fact, Titan Books goes so far as to include a disclaimer: “Characters may have views and use language which some of today’s readers may find offensive. The publisher and copyright holder in no way endorse the views expressed or language used.”
In this collection of strips originally published between 1975 and 1978, Bond squares off against the usual assortment of enemy spies, fiends set on word domination, blackmailers and assassins. There’s enough healthy sex and violence on display here to satisfy the most demanding of adult Bond aficionados, and enough gadgetry to thrill their inner 10-year-olds as well.
With both Lawrence and Horak being on tight deadlines to produce the original daily comic strips, sometimes the storytelling can wind up feeling a bit inconsistent, such as when the Egyptian journalist Gazila Fahmi abruptly becomes a research zoologist halfway through “Ape of Diamonds.” But such left turns in the storytelling only add to the strange charm of these strips, in which – just as in all the best Bond stories – you never know exactly where James will wind up next.
Jaroslav Horak’s art, too, veers from polished and clean to sketchy and almost impressionistic. This may be due to either time constraints or perhaps different inkers being used over his pencils. Even at its roughest, however, Horak’s art is always propulsive and kinetic.
This collection is presented in a handsome trade paperback with slightly oversized, glossy cardstock covers that make it feel halfway between a hardcover and a softcover. Production quality is high and the reproduction of the vintage comic strips is generally clear throughout, although Titan Books does include a disclaimer that because of the rarity of some of the sources, the quality can vary. This usually means that some of Horak’s finer line-work may be a bit blotchy and obscured. However, this won’t bother anyone used to reprint compendiums of this sort of work.
If you’re a Bond fan and enjoy adventure comics and graphic novels, The James Bond Omnibus 005 and the earlier collections in this series are a great way to sate your need for more Bond-age in your life until the next film comes along.