Modesty Blaise: Lady In The Dark by Peter O’Donnell and Enric Badia Romero (comic-book review).

It’s autumn and time for another volume of ‘Modesty Blaise’ to make you feel happier about the darker nights although reading in daylight is equally good.

The first story, ‘The Girl From The Future’, gets into Science Fiction territory. Modesty admits to reading a little and Willie Garvin a lot. However, it takes a lot of persuasion by Modesty’s occasional boy-friend, multi-millionaire John Dell, to see what two large globes of gold are needed for by SF publisher Alex Gant. He has Emma, a girl visitor from the future, who needs the gold lined up to allow her to teleport home after disclosing Gant’s revelations in a book now will pave that future. Although Modesty and Willie were waylaid by some gangster types on the way to the Gant Estate, they can’t figure out who’s involved in the scam or what can they gain from it and as neither they or Dell are invited to see Emma off, they camp up in the mountainous area to watch.

From here on, its spoiler country with all the right motives but not everything is as it seems. Originally written in 1989, one would hardly think it was depending on the SF craze which started a decade earlier. After all, O’Donnell had already done that with ‘Take Me To Your Leader’ back in 1974. The scam here is even more ingenious and so is the solution. Romero’s art has never been better and one would imagine that this was a reflection of the better printing techniques from that time.

‘The Big Mole’ goes back to Modesty and Willie’s Network days. After a late night skirmish in removing a child peddler in Morocco, Modesty goes to the rescue of a badly injured army officer, Michael Kerr. In the present, Modesty and Willie are guests of Sir Gerald Tarrant who relates to them the capture of a double agent called ‘The Big Mole’ but really named Sir Clive Meyrick, only to have been freed by a freelance mercenary team called The Paladine. Things didn’t go well and they’ve gone to ground. What none of them know is that they have taken over a holiday home for nurses nearby. One of the nurses manages to get a message out in a bottle to the nearby stream and the fishing Willie and Sir Gerald get it. With Sir Gerald given full authority from Westminster, he calls in the SAS but even they find impossible odds to capture Meyrick alive and rescue the nurses. When Modesty comes in, the SAS captain, Michael Kerr, recognises her as the woman who rescued him back in Morocco and knows her capabilities and together with Willie Garvin, a plan is hatched.

That should whet your appetite to see what happens next and I haven’t even touched on the Civil War re-enactment and the first time in ages that Willie Garvin throws his knife to kill. Modesty, as ever, is superb. However, what was it with Peter O’Donnell? Yet another character called Mrs. Fothergill! If you want to be hooked to Modesty Blaise stories and haven’t yet, then you need to read this story.

The final story, the volume title, ‘Lady In The Dark’, is a reference to blind diviner Dinah Collier, wife of Stephen Collier and their first cross-over from the novels. A brief stay with Modesty and Willie, splits them up when Collier’s back gives in. Willie accompanies Dinah on a paid job to Castle Edlitz in Carinthia to search for hidden treasure but they both suspect something is wrong. Willie tries to break them out but has to surrender when Dinah is held hostage but in turn saves him from death by saying her divining will cease to work when she’s emotionally upset. They discover they are in the middle of a Salamander Four operation to locate the treasure and with Willie and the real Countess held hostage, Dinah has to search. It takes a week before she finds anything and Modesty rings and Willie is able to give a clue to the problems they’re in. Unlike the books, they don’t use the codeword ‘Jacqueline’. From then on, it in one enormous rescue. Much of this story follows Willie Garvin for a change and shows just how capable he is alone.

Again, this is a caper where if you’ve never read tales of Modesty and Willie then this will convince you to buy the earlier books. For those, like me, you will be having a rabid read to see how they get survive with this time, the two of them having to work things out on the hoof, so to speak, when survival comes first and working out what to do comes second. Just when things become incredibly tough, Peter O’Donnell drops in a gag scene between Stephen Collier and Modesty’s man-servant, Weng, to lighten the air.

This entire book is a joy to read and one of my rare joys to complete in under a day when I was planning to spread it over the weekend. Whether you can do it any better than that, only you can decide. Peter O’Donnell is required reading in the Science Fiction community and ‘Modesty Blaise’ in novel or comicstrip will be top of your list if you haven’t discovered her yet, then this book will be the start of an incredible relationship.

GF Willmetts

(pub: Titan Books. 104 page graphic novel. Price: £11.99 (UK), $29.95 (US), $23.95 (CAN). ISBN: 978-0-85768-693-0)
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Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 21 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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