Do you want to know the most amazing thing about the Peter O’Donnell Modesty Blaise stories, whether written for the newspaper comics medium (as here) or in the splendid series of novels? It is the amazing fecundity of the late writer’s invention. Admittedly, situations and character types are often repeated — how could they not be, given the number of years that O’Donnell chronicled his tough, resourceful and sophisticated heroine’s exploits? But it is the fact that he invariably finds something new and ingenious to do with the formula, while never forgetting that characterisation is always absolutely paramount – of Modesty and her associates (Willie Garvin, Sir Gerald Tarrant), the unpleasant villains (a very varied bunch) and the vulnerable, innocent members of the dramatis personae caught in the middle. Plotting and narrative tension are easily the equal of many a more acclaimed novelist. This latest reissue of vintage material is well up to par, although it should be noted that the talented illustrator Romero was perhaps losing his freshness and had moved further away from the strip’s visual inaugurator, the late Jim Holdaway. Nevertheless, splendid fare — although I have a degree of personal sadness when reading the Modesty books; I miss my occasional meals with their creator. Peter was the most diverting company – as entertaining on the (well-refreshed) glory days of Fleet Street as when talking about his durable heroine.

The Girl in the Iron Mask by Peter O’Donnell & Enric Badia Romero is published by Titan

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