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A Silent Armageddon
Shattered Helix - Simon Jowett
Member Name: Jake Speed
Shattered Helix - Simon Jowett
Advantages: Good fun, nice art
Disadvantages: Hard to get hold of, story is derivative
It transpires that Boyce used to work for the CIA in a secret biological-warfare institute in the Antarctic. He was working on a virus which could attack human DNA and be programmed to create a range of diseases - from glaucoma to cancer. There was an accident and the virus escaped killing two researchers. Although the base was sealed off two flasks of the chilling virus remained inside. Cerebrus head for the Antarctic with Boyce as their prisoner and are intent on nabbing this deadly biological weapon. In a deadly race against time, Bond teams up with the Professor's daughter Serena Mountjoy and some Marines and to try and thart these dastardly plans. But the main villain here - cold hearted Cerebrus agent Mr Barclay - is determined not to be stopped. Shattered Helix is not exactly Alan Moore but it is a slightly above average comic and a pleasant mixture of the old and new. The art is slightly scratchy and retro in the old Horak style but we have colour and more modern futuristic facades and it works well overall. The meshing of the old and new gives it a cinematic modern feel while also paying respect to the history and traditions of the character. Nice touch to have M's briefing room look very old fashioned with leather lined doors and book shelves. Very cosy and in keeping with the books and early films. M is enjoyably drawn to look like Bernard Lee and even says "Good god!" when Bond fills him in on the details of the hair raising mutagen caper they are up against. These early briefing panels are excellent. Bond himself is an agreeable enough mixture of all that has gone before.
A bit of Connery, a bit of Fleming, a bit of John Gardener's Bond. Timothy Dalton maybe. He even has a dash of Roger Moore when he retains enough poise in tricky tense situations to make the odd dry quip or two. He's drawn quite retro (short black hair) although looks a bit odd on the actual cover for some reason. The cover is a bit too spare for my liking but sort of conveys the spirit of the book. The art is generally good with a nice sense of atmosphere and momentum. The snow bound submerged research facility illustrations are excellent and there are many good panels set in this wilderness of storms with helicopters in the frozen gloom and people lost in the snow frazzled mist. Use of shadows is always inventive throughout the comic too. The art is a definite plus and has a distinct Dark Horse style that reminds one of other volumes by this publishing house. Good use of the whiteness of Antarctic also I think. There are a couple of decent villains too for Bond to tangle with. Most memorable is the henchman Bullock - a huge imposing shaven headed lump who has special body-armour implants beneath his skin. As you can imagine he is constantly trying to kill 007 in the usual Bond henchman tradition. He's a formidable foe for our super agent hero. The story reads like a rejected script for one of the films and that's not meant as criticism at all. I just mean it's a good escapist caper where you can easily imagine certain elements being incorporated into a film. The opening panels in Arizona are warm and colourful and the mutagen virus adds an element of the macabre (very Ian Fleming) into proceedings in an entertaining way.
The contrast between these warm hues and the more stark but no less beautiful landscape of the Antarctic is effective. One possible weakness I suppose is that the Bond girl Serena Mountjoy is rather bland and contrived and isn't someone you remember terribly well afterwards (in contrast to some of the Horak illustrated heroines) and her introduction does slow the pace of the story somewhat. It picks up though when the villain is introduced and becomes a good relatively engrossing read with plenty of good art to enjoy. Use of dialogue is actually quite minimal here and the panels often tell the story. This economical approach is effective in what is a fairly straight ahead spy story. Shattered Helix is far from a classic but an entertaining read on the whole and certainly worth a look if you can ever get hold of it. When I wrote this review it was available used for about £15 and seems to be temporarily unavailable at the moment. If it does reappear at a reasonable price it's not a bad purchase at all if you are interested in comics and James Bond. While the story is hardly original (it reminded me of On Her Majesty's Secret Service) or complex it does make for a good solid graphic novel with interesting locations and one or two twists along the way. The snow bound panels in particular are often hugely enjoyable.
Summary: Not bad
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