Modesty Blaise: Live Bait by Peter O'Donnell

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Modesty Blaise: Live Bait by Peter O'Donnell

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Category: Graphic Novels
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: A better selection of Modesty stories, with more drama due to the tales being a little longer than the franchise's norm.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 104 Date: February 2012
Publisher: Titan
ISBN: 978-0857686688

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We're back in the gritty yet glamorous world of Modesty Blaise - at least, as gritty and glamorous as you could get in the Evening Standard daily comic strip in the late 1980s. Titan has had a mammoth undertaking to reproduce all the original strips in handy large-format graphic novel compendia, and this latest covers three stories, all of which I consider greater in depth than those in the other volume I've reviewed - Sweet Caroline.

The first involves one major supposition, one unlikely instance of baddy-turned-goodie at just the right time, and several shots of Modesty's bare legs, to create one good, smoothly flowing A-B of an action story, as Modesty and her Willie need unlikely help to counter a nasty gang. The second story contrasts the luxury of some exotic South American country with the horror of trafficking in women for black-market sex and slasher movies, and the third shows a great dilemma concerning heartfelt characters and great drama in a hostage situation.

What strikes the reader most, I think, is the concision Peter O'Donnell used. I dare say he could make his stories as long or as short as he required, but beyond his ever-inventive little crime plots, he manages to pack a hefty punch between the start and finish. So smooth his storytelling is, it could well come as a surprise to the newcomer to find that one in every six daily panels of his output had to be disposable, for those publications who only needed five doses a week. Knowing that, there are some you can see worked as cut scenes, but day in and day out, week after week, his work in the strip form is very good, if not better. Every panel, every page, every plot seems to work.

The advantage of having the strips gathered like this can be seen with the title story, where it would be very easy to forget it's supposed to be night-time, so bright is the artwork. But O'Donnell's most regular artist, E B Romero, shows he was no slouch either. There are cases of his gritty men all looking the same, but the dynamism of the poses, and his respect for the character of Modesty Blaise - all long legs, long hair and crime-busting smarts, comes through.

Titan Books also, of course, carry the Vertigo Crime series, featuring such interesting delights as A Sickness in the Family by Denise Mina and Antonio Fuso. You might also enjoy 21st Century Tank Girl by Jamie Hewlett, Alan Martin and others. For something completely different, try Ambition by Immodesty Blaize.

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