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Corriere dei Piccoli / Corrierino 1993 #18
('Il Mostro di Loch Ness')
by Antonio Orecchia

Featuring: James, IQGordo, Phoebe, Trevor, Coach Mitchell, Baron von Skarin.

Synopsis: At a nuclear research laboratory in London, a scientist called Professor Waight is holding a press conference about a major breakthrough; he's managed to find a successful way to produce unlimited clean energy via cold fusion. The journalists are suitably impressed, saying it's the invention of the century and will be worth millions, but Waight has another appointment and soon has to leave. Outside, two men in trenchcoats and hats appear, and ask to speak to him. He tells them he's running late, but one of the men punches him in the stomach, and he's tied up, gagged and bundled into a car, which then speeds away.

Meanwhile, Coach Mitchell is driving James, IQ, Gordo, Phoebe and Trevor to the airport, for their holiday at Loch Ness. IQ is bringing along an ultra-sensitive sonar device which he says will allow them to locate the famous Loch Ness Monster, if it exists. James recalls with amusement how the old magnetic pulse remote control IQ has adapted to work with it used to have the unintended side effect of turning off all motors within the area. As they arrive at the airport, Trevor gets nervous as he's scared of flying, but tries to make out it's because the plane is a rust-bucket and he expected something better. IQ calls out his cowardice, and tells Trevor he's made a special parachute for him, made of indestructible material.

Coach Mitchell tells the gang to have fun and stay out of trouble as they board the plane. James sits next to a girl he's immediately taken with, and introduces himself. Her name is Paula Waight, the daughter of Professor Waight, and she's headed to Loch Ness too having received a letter from him inviting her to join him on holiday. However, at a house overlooking the loch, we see that the professor has been delivered into the hands of Baron von Skarin, and that the letter to Paula was the Baron's ruse to get her to Loch Ness. He wants the professor's cold fusion formula, so he can control the future of the world's energy.

When they arrive in Scotland, Trevor gives IQ the parachute back, and James and Paula agree to stay in touch, having swapped phone numbers. But outside the airport, the same two figures in trenchcoats who kidnapped the professor grab Paula, and bundle her into their van. IQ and James see this as they emerge from the building themselves, and James leaps onto the back of the van as it departs. It's only as they approach the Baron's house at Loch Ness that the crooks notice James has hitched a ride on the roof. They stop the vehicle, and James fights with one of them on a clifftop, while Paula watches helplessly from inside the van.

James dives off the cliff and into Loch Ness. IQ, Phoebe and Gordo are already there in a speedboat; James climbs aboard, and the gang resolves to save Professor Waight and Paula from the house on the cliff. Meanwhile, Baron von Skarin - flanked by Schnitzel the dog - tells a tied-up Professor Waite that he's organised a 'nice family gathering' for him, and turns on a television screen. Waite is horrified to see Paula tied up on a large wooden block in the basement, next to a docked submarine, with a circular saw moving towards her, cutting through the wood. The professor has no choice but to start writing down the cold fusion formula for von Skarin, although the baron secretly intends to make both father and daughter 'disappear' once he has what he wants.

On the loch, James is on water skis behind the speedboat, and uses IQ's parachute to get into the air, soaring above the Baron's villa. He lets go of the handle and parachutes down onto the balcony of the house, landing with a crash on top of von Skarin himself. The trenchcoat-wearing henchman are approaching the house down below and see this. James unties the professor, who tells him that Paula is being held in the basement - but at that point, the henchmen appear on the balcony and start shooting at them. James leaps off the balcony with the professor in his arms, using the parachute again.

The Baron orders his men to fire at them as they drift away, but the bullets bounce off the indestructible parachute, and James and the professor descend to safety on a beach below. Gordo picks them up in the speedboat, and Professor Waight explains that he saw a submarine in the basement where Paula was being held, which is level with the lake. IQ says his sonar gizmo has detected the submarine, but Phoebe points out it could have detected the Loch Ness Monster instead. To test the theory, James activates IQ's old magnetic pulse remote control, saying they should see whether the 'monster' has an engine or not.

Sure enough, von Skarin's submarine rises to the surface, as his engine has stopped. Von Skarin escapes from the sub onto a helicopter, then throws a tied-up Paula from the chopper into the lake. James and the professor fish her out, and the father and daughter are reunited - while von Skarin vows that Bond will pay as he flies away. The Warfielders return to the airport to pick up Trevor, who is annoyed that the gang all left while he was buying a sandwich. He asks what they've been doing, and James tells him that they fought the Loch Ness Monster. Trevor thinks James is just making fun of him - which in fairness, he is.

Review: While this strip obviously shares the same setting as the TV episode No Such Loch, this is a very different and altogether more grown-up story. There's no larger-than-life mechanical Nessie to contend with here - well, not quite in the same way, at least - and Plank is replaced by the less comical figure of Baron von Skarin, whose trenchcoated assistants also give off a very sinister air; they're violent too, firing proper guns about the place rather than lasers, and even punch poor Professor Waight in the stomach when they kidnap him. Later, Waight gives up his cold fusion formula when he's forced to watch his daughter Paula tied up as a circular saw approaches her head, in a sequence that seems to us a tad too dark for a children's comic; and later, poor Paula is thrown, still tied up, from a helicopter by von Skarin as he makes his escape. All of this makes for a tense and compelling story, with plenty of action thrown into the mix too. It's not devoid of lightness, however, thanks to the inclusion of Trevor, who returns at the end to play his traditional role of the butt of James's jokes.

Highs: Baron von Skarin is about as evil as James Bond Jr villains get in this instalment. Following his horrendous treatment of Paula to force her father into handing over the cold fusion formula, we learn via a thought bubble that he intends to finish them both off regardless as soon as he has it.

IQ's magnetic pulse remote (see 'Gadgets & Gizmos' below) - or should that be Chekhov's magnetic pulse remote, given how conspicuously it's introduced on the first double-page spread - feels like another technological silver bullet with sweeping, implausible powers.

Gadgets & Gizmos:
IQ's ultra-sensitive sonar device can pick up even the slightest underwater movements. It has been adapted to work with an old magnetic pulse remote control of his, which was designed to operate computers at a distance, but which is infamous for its unintended effect of deactivating all motors in the vicinity. IQ has also designed a parachute to help tackle Trevor's fear of flying (see also The Chameleon), which is made of 'flexible, indestructible' material. It certainly proves to be bulletproof later in the story.

SCUM on the Surface:
The organisation fails to get a mention here.

Blunders & Bloopers:
In one frame during the airport departure on the second page, the text of IQ and Trevor's respective speech bubbles are swapped by mistake, so they're saying each other's lines - though it's a forgivable mistake, as both the characters are only visible at the edge of the frame.

Cold fusion technology, requiring a hypothetical type of room-temperature nuclear reaction, is also the theme of the TV episode Danger Train, and was an area of scientific research very much in vogue in the early nineties.

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