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#72 (Marvel Comics #12)
'HOMEWARD BOUND'
by Dan Abnett

Featuring: James, I.Q., Tracy, Gordo, Phoebe, Trevor, Mr Milbanks, Coach Mitchell, Scumlord, Dr Derange, Dr No, Goldfinger, Captain Plank, Baron von Skarin, Ms Fortune, Snuffer, Jaws, Nick Nack, Odd Job, Skullcap.

Synopsis: A winter break in the mountains comes to a sharp close for James when, as leaving his hotel, he's accosted by Nick Nack, who tries to shoot him. Escaping through the window, James scoots down the slopes on I.Q.'s bullet-proof suitcase, as Skullcap appears in a snowmobile. Seeing the lake ferry on a jetty up ahead, James flies straight onto it as the boat pulls away from the dock. Skullcap, meanwhile, plunges into the lake. As the boat continues, James notices a submarine lurking under the lake surface - it's Walker D. Plank, who fires a torpedo towards the ferry.

James sends it flying back to the sub with one of I.Q.'s gadgets, and Plank's sub explodes. On the other side of the lake, however, Ms Fortune and Snuffer await with their black limousine. Just as Snuffer approaches to grab James, Tracy pulls up by coincidence and gives James a ride. Ms Fortune and Snuffer follow in the limo, but are halted when it crashes into a road-sweeper.

James and Tracy escape and drive to the train station, where they meet I.Q. and have a close shave with Odd Job, whose flying hat just misses them. On the train, they're accosted by Goldfinger, who traps them in the buffet car and explains the situation: Scumlord has put a bounty on James's head and the various members of S.C.U.M. are now vying to be the one to finish him off. It's soon apparent that Goldfinger is working with Baron von Skarin, whose blimp grabs their train carriage from the tracks and lifts it high into the air.

James, I.Q. and Tracy leap from the carriage and are carried to safety by the parachutes in the lining of their clothes. Furious, Goldfinger fires his gun up at the blimp, causing a puncture, and the two villains crash into a mountain. The three now land over the border in France, and soon spot Phoebe in her car, who was due to pick them up from the train station at the next town. They hop in and head towards Calais, evading another assassination attempt by Dr Derange in a combine harvester - which I.Q. disables with some strong home-made glue.

At Calais, they meet Gordo, who offers to take them across the Channel in a CIA hydrofoil. Doctor No is also on the water, though, in a hovercraft armed with machine guns. James destroys the hovercraft with a heat-seeking missile, and a dishevelled No calls Scumlord from the lifeboat, warning him that all the agents have failed and that he will have to deal with Bond himself. At Dover, the customs official turns out to be Jaws, but James batters him with his suitcase and they all hop in the sports car for the final stretch.

Scumlord spots them and speeds up alongside in his car, knocking Trevor Noseworthy's bike into a ditch as he goes, and preparing to shred James's tyres with a buzzsaw attachment. He's so busy doing so, however, that he fails to look where he's going, and crashes headlong into a penful of pigs. Back at Warfield, the gang make it for Milbanks' start-of-term assembly - just in time to cackle at Trevor as he wheels his bike in, bruised and muddy.


Review: It's never clear from the series why, given James's repeated defeats of S.C.U.M. over the years, they never go after him directly as an end in itself. Even the unusual stories based in and around Warfield, Hostile Takeover and Friends Like These, had nothing to do with removing James per se, and rather focused on S.C.U.M.'s infiltration of the secret service and NATO respectively. So this final comic story provides a fitting end to the franchise - an 'all-villain special' ensues, as the organisation finally turns all its efforts on its most enduring antagonist. This results in a degree of circularity as, like in The Beginning, a new term is starting at Warfield - paving the way for future adventures that were sadly never to be. While the basic idea is a good one, the finer details of the story are sometimes poorly thought out; some of the myriad S.C.U.M. agents Bond encounters on his journey home are dispatched with almost slapstick ease within three or four frames, somewhat trivialising what would otherwise be a unique and perilous situation (see 'Lows' in particular). There's very little opportunity for characterisation because of the amount of action that has to be included in order to fit everybody in, so it may have been advisable to go for fewer villains and longer sequences for each. The novelty factor of having so many villains in one story makes this a must for diehard fans, but aside from that there's nothing outstanding. That said it's undeniably an action-packed outing, and would certainly have benefited from an on-screen treatment.

Highs: As usual, it's left to the verbose Mr Goldfinger to explain the plot for those who hadn't already worked it out themselves - and he actually does it fairly well.

Lows:
By contrast, the 'denouement' with Scumlord is somewhat of an anticlimax; rather than a painstakingly-scripted battle of words between protagonist and aggressor we get a fairly mundane collision with some farm animals.

Lines to Remember: James, encountering Skullcap straight after a run-in with Nick Nack: "You too? What is this... a baddies' convention?"

Gadgets & Gizmos: James exhibits a slew of I.Q.'s inventions on his journey, not least: bullet-proof suitcase and socks, mini scuba, anti-bug toothpaste, a miniature telemetry disruptor (it deflects missiles), an electromagnet, a miniature parachute, and a vial of 'industrial strength contact adhesive' (it disables combine harvesters). Meanwhile Gordo's ultra-responsible dad Felix is more than happy to lend his son a hydrofoil sporting heat-seeking missiles, which make short work of Doctor No.

The agents of S.C.U.M. also get in on the gadget act here, however, taking 'Pimp My Ride' to the next level with Nick Nack's souped-up hotel porter's trolley complete with bullets and jet propulsion, von Skarin's blimp with train-snatching robotic arm, and, perhaps most sinister, Doctor Derange's customised combine harvester with added 'laser-blades'.

Lines to Forget: I.Q., on the buzz-saws protruding from the base of Scumlord's car: 'He's got some kind of anti-car blades, James...'

Notes: 'Special All-Villain Issue', boasts the cover - yet this patently isn't the case. Even just considering the villains that have appeared in the other comics, Tiara Hotstones is notable for her absence (possibly due to the aversion she displays to harming James in Sure as Eggs is Eggs). Others from the TV show - including Goldie Finger, Barbella, the Chameleon, Cortex, the Worm and Spoiler - also do not appear, although this is less surprising given their relative rarity in the cartoons, and total absence throughout the comic run thus far. It's possible the writers didn't want to confuse a comic-only audience by introducing extra crooks at such a late stage. However, Nick Nack is also absent from the rest of the comic run, yet appears here; perhaps it's because he features in so many of the TV episodes.

Mr Mitchell appears in the background in one scene but has no lines.

The beginning of this story appears to be set in the Alps - this would appear to tally with the details of James' journey home.

It's been a long while since James Bond Jr was last pursued by a combine harvester (Live and Let's Dance) although the scene features in the opening titles of every show. The appearances of both Baron von Skarin and a blimp also mirror that episode.

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