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#69 (Marvel Comics #9)
'ABSOLUTE ZERO'
by Dan Abnett

Featuring: James, I.Q., Tracy, Gordo, Phoebe, Trevor, Coach Mitchell, Doctor No.

Synopsis: The students of Warfield Academy are at Saint Jeune, Switzerland, to take part in the annual inter-collegiate Winter Sports Championship. James, Tracy, Gordo and Connie Fore, an exchange student from Ottawa, are competing in the skiing event, while Phoebe covers the story for the Warfield Magazine. I.Q. and Trevor are the reserves for the team. As James wins yet another race, there are moody faces from both Trevor and the main competitors for the title, from Bermuda's 'St Negatory's School For The Academically Blessed'.

While Phoebe drafts her copy, the others congratulate James on his success. They decide to head up the mountain for a practice run, while I.Q. and Coach Mitchell note that the Bermuda team seem a little unfriendly. At that moment, an avalanche booms down the mountainside, while Doctor No watches on a telescreen. The avalanche is a result of his ice-cap machine, producing mini glaciers with which he hopes to hold major Swiss cities to ransom for the contents of their famous deposit banks.

On the slopes, James and the gang notice the effects of the avalanche and discover one of his machine's transmitter masts. No overhears their plan to inform the authorities via his surveillance system, and launches another avalanche, turning up the 'glacier speed regulator' for good measure. As the mini-glaciers chase the skiiers down the mountain, the avalanche sets in, and the resort is quickly evacuated. Trevor wants to get going, but Phoebe, I.Q. and Coach Mitchell are concerned, and decide they should all stay behind to look for James and the others.

Meanwhile, the Bermudians turn out to be 'Negative Team', Doctor No's agents in the competition, who report back to the villain that Saint Jeune is being evacuated - except for Mitchell and the search party. No tells Negative Team to pursue them. Up in the mountains, the valley has been blocked off by the avalanche and there's no way down for James, Tracy, Gordo and Connie. Guessing someone's responsible for the glaciers, he suggests they climb higher.

Watching them, No tells Negative Team to head after James instead, who has discovered another transmitter mast. Deducing that the masts must by spread out from a central point, James works out where No is based and they head for one of the peaks - but the Bermudan team arrive on snowmobiles and pursue them with gunfire. One of them corners him, but a choice snowball from Phoebe takes out the Bermudan just as he's about to shoot. With the ski team and search party reunited, it's Trevor who realises that No must be after the Swiss bank money.

I.Q. examines one of the masts and modifies it, causing an alert at No's base. He speaks to the gang over the loudspeaker, and starts another glacier. But I.Q.'s tinkering causes the glacier to reverse back on Doctor No, and his lab is destroyed by the collision as he rolls away in a huge snowball. Back at the resort, the competition has been cancelled in the Bermudians' absence and Warfield head home. When a national reporter asks Phoebe what really went on, she sends him on his way - claiming she has no idea either.


Review: Writing as the world continues to recover from the largest financial crisis for decades, it's probably fair to say that the plight of the Swiss banks in this story wouldn't garner quite so much sympathy now as it may have done in 1992. Nevertheless it's a reasonably inventive storyline, albeit far-fetched, and a nice solo story for the sinister Doctor No, whose trademark ninjas are replaced by - umm - a nefarious ski-team from Bermuda, an island group with no mountains and no snow. That particular loose end isn't tied up, and nor would we expect it to be - this is James Bond Jr, afer all. But the plot is nevertheless suitably cold and calculating for the villain in question - as is the fact that he ends up suffering the indignity of rolling away in a giant snowball! For the first time in the original comics, Trevor makes an appearance, and is even more unpleasant than usual at first - presuming that James and the others are buried in the avalanche and concentrating on saving his own skin. But later on he's more cooperative, and is actually the one that works out what Doctor No is up to. Were it to be translated onto TV, this would work best as a largely action-based episode, given that the plot doesn't have the necessary twists and turns for a proper spy story. But it remains enjoyable to read, and provides a picturesque backdrop of which the artist takes full advantage.

Highs: Phoebe's journalistic commentary acts as a neat framing device for this story, and is rather endearing. At a push it could be seen as a reference to her previous bid for Fleet Street in Rubies Aren't Forever, although that may be crediting the continuity department with a little too much finesse. It's also nice to see Trevor contributing to the fight against S.C.U.M., even if he displays his typical cowardice earlier in the story.

Lows:
Canadian student Connie Fore is every bit as bland and incidental a character as her feeble pun of a name suggests, and barely musters three lines.

Lines to Forget: Doctor No, as his mini-glaciers pursue James: 'There’s no outrunning my icy grasp, Bond!'

Gadgets & Gizmos: Like a fair proportion of I.Q.'s inventions, his Swiss army knife (geddit?) has a laser attachment.

S.C.U.M. on the Surface: No (pardon the pun). The organisation isn't mentioned at all, and the good doctor's stooges are described by him only as 'Negative Team'. 

Loco Parenthesis: To Coach Mitchell's (rare) credit, he does actually decide to stick around to look for James, Tracy, Gordo and Connie after the resort is evacuated - although arguably that simply serves to put IQ, Phoebe and Trevor, who also tag along, in danger too.

Blunders & Bloopers: So superfluous is Connie Fore that she is confused with Tracy by the comic's artist on at least one occasion, so that they briefly swap hair colours.

Notes: Negative Team - Doctor No's stooges and the Warfield gang's skiing rivals - are purportedly from an equivalent academy in Bermuda (though, given its name - St Negatory's School for the Academically Blessed - it's likely to be a front), and are belittled as such by Bond even before they turn out to be hardened criminals as well as poor skiiers. Does the author of this strip have something against Bermudans, or was it simply luck of the draw?

James and friends have visited Bermuda themselves - they set sail from the territory on the SS Phoebe in the TV episode Cruise to Oblivion.

This is James's first visit to Switzerland since Avalanche Run, and the last of four visits to the country in total.

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