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The Spy Who Loved Me is a graphic novel from Titan Books and was first published in 2005. This is another collection of old James Bond newspaper comic strips from the Daily Express written by Jim Lawrence with art by Yaroslav Horak and contains The Spy Who Loved Me and another story called The Harpies. As usual with these collections there are some extra features to serve as an introduction before we dip into the stories. First up is Caroline Munro - who famously chased Roger Moore's Lotus around Sardinia in a helicopter in the (completely different) 1977 film version - sharing a few memories about her experiences making the film and musing on the enduring appeal of the James Bond films and books. 'Bond's appeal for me is the sheer exuberant fantasy of it all.' Then there is an overview of the evolution of the Daily Express strips by writer Paul Simpson and a piece entitled The Spy Who Loved Me: James Bond's Strangest Adventure. This is all about Ian Fleming's original novel and why both the film and the comic adaption were different.
Fleming's The Spy Who Loved Me novel was somewhat experimental and unusual (and generally not well regarded) in that it was told from the perspective of a woman who James Bond eventually rescues from some gangsters in a lonely motel. Bond himself didn't even appear until late in the story. Fleming gave instructions that the film version should have nothing to do with his book and wanted the comic strip adaption to be different too. The solution by Jim Lawrence was to concentrate more on the mission that we hear Bond has been on before he arrives at the motel in the Adirondacks after a long drive and meets Vivienne Michel. The mission is not the same as the one described in the book and it allows Lawrence to come up with an original story to preface the latter events of Fleming's story. While a straight adaption of The Spy Who Loved Me would not have been without interest this was probably a sensible way to go for a comic book format that was originally published a few panels at a time.
In this comic strip version, the story revolves around a test pilot in Canada named Mike Farrar who is part of the trials for a secret new stealth aircraft called the Ghosthawk. Farrar is being blackmailed though by someone called Horst Uhlmann and this information is passed onto the British Secret Service. Uhlmann used to be a member of SPECTRE and the British are keen to find out if he is still linked to them and if SPECTRE is still operating and able to pose a threat. James Bond is sent to Canada to impersonate Farrar in an attempt to get more information and hopefully flush SPECTRE out. The Spy Who Loved Me is an enjoyable collection of strips by Lawrence and Horak with the usual striking black and white art and an exciting and mostly original story. The strip ties back in with the events of the original novel towards the end and also floats a new SPECTRE villain named Madame Spectra. While, unlike others, I don't dislike Fleming's novel terribly myself, it was, for comic strip purposes, probably more exciting to flesh out the mission that Bond was on before it and add some new elements. It's a strong and entertaining piece of work by Lawrence and Horak and good fun.
The other story in the graphic novel is called The Harpies and is the first original non-Fleming tale written by Jim Lawrence for the strips. The plot has scientist Dr John Phineus inventing something called the 'Q-Ray' which he is mulling over giving to the government. However, he is then kidnapped by 'The Harpies', an all-female group of high-tech acrobat criminals who use rocket packs and hang-gliders and are establishing themselves as rivals to SPECTRE and other nefarious organisations. James Bond duly investigates (don't MI6 have any other agents!) and discovers that Phineus had a very big rival in Simon Nero - the head of a company called Aerotech Security. Bond becomes friendly with the head of Aerotech's security and gets a job reference from him. He then arranges to have him kidnapped and poses as a crooked police inspector to replace him as the new head of Aerotech's security and snoop around to see what he can find out.
The Harpies is a lot of fun and has fantastical elements that are often very enjoyable. The panels of The Harpies swooping down with their hang gliders at the start of he story are enjoyably Batman and it's nice to see a new group of criminals for Bond to tangle with. The black and white art manages to convey sweep and momentum surprisingly well and is nicely atmospheric at times with the shaded backdrops. There are appearances by M, Tanner and Moneypenny and we see that Bond is still adopting the cover name Mark Hazard from The Man with the Golden Gun. I really like the story here with the female acrobat baddies and Simon Nero is a decent villain at the centre of it all. Bond's infiltration of Aerotech is quite clever and like something the films used to do before they had Daniel Craig constantly smashing through glass. There is a brutal fight too between Bond and a security guard over a number of panels that taps into some of the violence and sadism of the Fleming books.
The Spy Who Loved Me is another entertaining collection of Bond strips from Titan Books and a lot of fun for anyone interested in comic art and James Bond. The adaption of The Spy Who Loved Me by Lawrence and Horak is a good read and the addition of the The Harpies, a very enjoyable original story, is a nice bonus. Although these strips are a tad dated in places they are very inventive and have a certain old-fashioned charm that still makes them pleasant to dip into.