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Corriere dei Piccoli / Corrierino 1993 #15
('Alla Ricerca della Pietra Filosofale')
by Federica Montanari

Featuring: James, IQ, Tracy, Gordo, Phoebe, Trevor, Goldfinger.

Synopsis: In Florence's Piazza della Signoria, a tour guide named Beatrice gives James, IQ, Tracy, Gordo and Phoebe a potted history of the town hall that looms above them, the Palazzo Vecchio. Beatrice suddenly notices that Trevor has vanished, so IQ instructs her to open the umbrella they've given her. The umbrella is a device to help the gang avoid getting lost on city breaks - it houses a powerful antenna which can tune into the impulses sent by electronic pins that the kids are wearing, including Trevor. Sure enough, they quickly track down Trevor, who brags that he's purchased an ancient figurine that belonged to Lorenzo de' Medici. That is, until the 'made in Hong Kong' stamp on the figure's base is pointed out to him.

Later, at the hotel, James asks what Beatrice has in store for them tomorrow. She tells them their art teacher has scheduled a whole day at the Uffizi Gallery. Gordo is tucking into a bowl of ice-cream, but when he accidentally knocks something in IQ's bag nearby, his spoon melts! IQ explains Gordo must have activated one of his gadgets which can turn any metal into liquid. The conversation is interrupted when James notices that Goldfinger has appeared on the TV. Addressing world leaders, the crook announces he has found the Philosopher's Stone, meaning he has the power to turn any metal object into gold - which would cause ruin were he to put it on the market, as the price of gold would collapse, taking the world economy with it. To avoid this, he demands all governments cede absolute power to him.

During the broadcast, Beatrice has noticed that the background behind Goldfinger is her family castle, which her father uses for his alchemy experiments. She explains her father has been conducting research for years into the Philosopher's Stone; and James suspects this isn't a coincidence. At the castle, Goldfinger is annoyed that the effects of the stone only appear to be temporary; a pan that he had forced Beatrice's father to turn into gold is now iron again. Beatrice's father explains that his research is still at too early a stage for the transformation to be permanent. In which case, Goldfinger tells him, he should get on with his research - but Beatrice's father refuses to go along with his plans. Looking out of the window, Goldfinger sees Beatrice getting out of her car - and retorts to her father that he'll have to resume his experiments, if he cares about his daughter.

Beatrice, IQ and James walk towards the castle, but shortly after they get inside, Beatrice mysteriously vanishes. James assumes Goldfinger is behind it, so they activate their electronic pins, hoping Beatrice is carrying the umbrella gadget. The pins start bleeping, and they follow the signal based on its increasing intensity, until they reach a locked door. James forces it open with a shoulder-barge, and they find Beatrice inside; Goldfinger locked her in here, she explains, and is also holding her father captive in his laboratory. She leads them to the lab where they confront Goldfinger. James spies items that were made of gold when he saw them on TV, and Beatrice's father explains the effects of the alchemy are only temporary.

Outnumbered, Goldfinger takes the opportunity to run, leaping into a helicopter piloted by a henchman. James, IQ and Beatrice run into the courtyard, deciding to follow the chopper in the car. But as they drive over the drawbridge of the castle, it begins to rise; Goldfinger has the remote control for the drawbridge. Nonetheless, James puts his foot on the pedal and sends the car flying off the end of the rising drawbridge, clearing the moat successfully. James asks IQ for his metal-melting gizmo, and fires it at Goldfinger's helicopter, promptly melting it. Goldfinger and his henchman fall into a nearby lake, where Goldfinger laments that all the metal from his golden helicopter will take months to recover from the water - much to the amusement of James, IQ and Beatrice.

Review: One of the less appealing outings of the Corrierino run, this deals with similar subject matter to The Gilt Complex from the US Marvel comic series - which also involves Goldfinger, Italy and the Philosopher's Stone - but isn't as good as the Marvel story. While the occasional fantasy tale is well within the rules of the Bond Jr universe, and the Philosopher's Stone is a natural choice for the franchise to pick up and run with given Goldfinger's well-documented proclivities, the device isn't particularly well deployed here, to say the least. The plot is all rather vague; it doesn't seem clear (though it could be our translation skills at fault) whether Beatrice's father already had the Stone and Goldfinger stole it from him, or whether it comes from elsewhere (by the end of The Gilt Complex, the Stone is in fact in IQ's possession, not that we'd expect any continuity between the two stories); and in any case we don't actually even see the Stone in this strip, which is a bit of an anticlimax. As is the fact that its effects are so fleeting; and the fact that Goldfinger can only afford one henchman, and gives up so easily at the end - especially given he ostensibly had world domination in his grasp just a few pages earlier. When you add IQ's metal-melting device to the mix, it's all a little bit too fantastical, particularly the finale (see 'Lows'). On the other hand, it's great to see Florence making it into the series, and the artwork of the Palazzo at the start is among the strip's handful of highlights. Speaking of which...

Highs: It's a cliché but nonetheless true that you don't know what you've got till it's gone, like Trevor Noseworthy largely is from the James Bond Jr comic stories; and having found ourselves grudgingly missing him as a result, his little cameo here - bragging about an expensive bit of souvenir tat he's apparently been flogged under false pretences - warmed our collective heart.

IQ's device being used to melt Goldfinger's helicopter in mid-air is a bit of a jump-the-shark moment, if we're honest. When you hand the protagonists pseudoscience so outrageous as to be essentially magical, and the villains' own magic is so lacklustre in comparison, the stakes become so low as to be invisible.

Gadgets & Gizmos:
IQ's umbrella device generates pulses with increasing intensity as it homes in on the electronic pins that the Warfield gang are wearing - although unlike the umbrella devices from the TV episode Red Star One, it seemingly can't be used for audio communication. Meanwhile, the molecular modifier can reduce any metal to its liquid state; IQ built it for use on locks to enable the gang escape from Warfield, but it can also render entire helicopters liquid at the touch of a button.

SCUM on the Surface:
Not mentioned in this story.

Florence's town hall, the Palazzo Vecchio, is here referred to by its older name of Palazzo della Signoria.

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