Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Modesty Blaise: The Black Pearl, by Peter O'Donnell & Jim Holdaway

(pb - graphic novel; compiled and republished in 2004. Fourth book in the Modesty Blaise graphic novel series)

From the back cover:

"She's beautiful with a bullet! Modesty Blaise - cult creation of best-selling author Peter O'Donnell - returns for another searing slice of '60s chic thrills set in the shadowy underworld of espionage and mystery.

"In the wilds of Tibet, Modesty must repay the debt she owes an ancient mystic who once saved her life, by finding the mysterious Black Pearl. Before her stand marauding bandits, the might of the Himalayas and the power of Red China! This. . . volume also includes The Magnified Man, The Jericho Caper and The Killing Ground."


The continuous-story comic strips (with the exception of "The Killing Ground") ran in the London Evening Standard newspaper, from December 1966 to April 1967. ("The Killing Ground" ran in a Scottish paper, from April 1967 to May 1967.)

"The Black Pearl" - Modesty and her knife-wielding, lady-killer sidekick Willie Garvin are pursued by the Red Chinese army in the Himalayas, when they locate and take a mysterious item, the Black Pearl, to its new, rightful owners.

"The Magnified Man" - When Willie accidentally blows the cover of a Deuxieme Bureau agent and old flame (Denise Rouelle), he and Modesty tangle with a shady criminal (Herr Bilke) and a returned enemy, Jules, who are setting up a huge train heist, via a bizarre contraption.

"The Jericho Caper" - A village, threatened by woman-stealing bandits, is protected by Modesty, Willie, and a group of men led by an old friend, Flynn.

"The Killing Ground" - Modesty and Willie, kidnapped by an old foe (Bellman), are placed on an island, where they're hunted by three professional killers. Despite echoing Richard Connell's distinctive, famous storyline (from "The Most Dangerous Game"), it's still fun, with our heroes quickly turning the tables on the hired assassins.

This story - "The Killing Ground" - was later adapted into a novella by author O'Donnell, in the final Modesty Blaise book, Cobra Trap.

The stand-out story strips in this collection are "The Black Pearl" and "The Magnified Man," with their cleverness, twists and wild-card elements; "The Jericho Caper" and "The Killing Ground" are enjoyable, too.

Followed by Modesty Blaise: Bad Suki.

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