MODESTY BLAISE: THE KILLING GAME   PETER O’DONNELL & ENRIC BADIA ROMERO  It’s finally here. In what might be considered both a happy and sad occasion, Titan Books have successfully completed their all-inclusive run of Peter O’Donnell’s imperishable comic strip Modesty Blaise (drawn by a variety of artists, including the great Jim Holdaway who inaugurated the strip and Enric Badia Romero, who concluded it). It’s a happy occasion in that Titan have been able to achieve this monumental task, and rather sad that we will not be enjoying further acquaintance with O’Donnell’s doughty heroine and her companion Willie Garvin. But at least this final volume shows that O’Donnell’s writing skills were as sharp as when he began the strip decades earlier, and it still remains the most intelligent, best-written comic strip ever produced in the UK – and that includes such stellar offerings as Sydney Jordan’s Jeff Hawke (also the subject of Titan reprints – not enough, sadly). In The Killing Game, we have the customary mix of sharp dialogue, adroit plotting and beautifully handled action – and there is one tempting possibility for Modesty fans. We may have finished reading the strips in these collected editions, but now we can go back to the beginning again. And if you don’t have every volume, why not?

FLASH GORDON: THE DEATH PLANET BY DAN BARRY  Wonderful though the elegant illustrations of Flash Gordon’s creator Alex Raymond, were – and immensely influential on such later talents as Al Williamson — by the time the highly efficient Dan Barry took over the strip, it was time for a change in style, and this talented artist was to largely remove the more courtly and swashbuckling elements of the strip (palaces, swords and other things from the age of chivalry) to create a genuinely science fictional universe with plausible technology-oriented accoutrements. Which is not to say that Barry neglected the adventurous energy of the original – that’s here aplenty. In a very welcome series, this is the first volume covering the colour Sundays, and it is, like its predecessors, highly enjoyable, reprinting the first four years of Barry’s Flash Gordon Sunday strips (with a little of his predecessor Mac Raboy also included). Although the art is not as impressive as in Barry’s dailies (where the inking was more detailed and distinctive), recommendations are unnecessary — although once again, it’s a shame that Titan have not printed the art at a larger size, given that there is considerable body of margin in which the illustrations could have been shown to better advantage. This was a caveat with the earlier volumes, and though one doesn’t want to look a gift horse in the mouth – this is a very welcome addition ( though future volumes at larger size, Titan?). What’s more, it’s fascinating to see how the Dan Barry style provided the template for the classic DC SF comics Mystery Space and Strange Adventures.

Modesty Blaise: The Killing Game and Flash Gordon: The Death Planet by Dan Barry are published by Titan

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