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James Bond Jr Online


Corriere dei Piccoli / Corrierino 1993 #31
by Alberto Savini

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

Synopsis: James, Tracy, Gordo and IQ are in a gift shop in Haiti, choosing souvenirs to take back to their friends at Warfield, and settle on some good luck charms. Pierre, the shop owner, calls his daughter Brigitte to come and wrap the gifts - but at this point, a pair of crooks come in and hold 'Houngan Pierre', as they call him, at gunpoint - 'houngan' being a voodoo priest or sorcerer. Brigitte appears and begs the men to leave her father alone, but they tell her she'll see him again 'once he's done his thing', and drag him out to their car. Gordo is keen to pursue them, but James instead leads the gang back indoors to speak to Brigitte. After introductions are made, Brigitte tells them a very powerful organisation has kidnapped her father. James correctly guesses it's SCUM.

James explains that the Warfielders have had multiple run-ins with SCUM, and Tracy encourages Brigitte to tell them everything, saying she can trust them. Brigitte says her father doesn't possess any real magical power, but is reputed to be the most powerful houngan on the island. She explains that he's one of the few who has a television, so watches the weather forecast each day and then convinces farmers made desperate by drought that he is capable of evoking rain, by performing incantations at just the right moment. When the 'less credulous' of the farmers don't want to pay Pierre for making it rain, he makes phony invocations to the infernal gods, and a hideous zombie appears, convincing the farmers to pay the fee.

Gordo is terrified by the mention of zombies, but James has already guessed who is impersonating the zombie on Pierre's behalf - Brigitte. She admits it's an effect achieved with use of mud and leaves, and says everyone has always fallen for it - including now Goldfinger, who has a gold mine in the area. The mine is unstable and subject to sudden cave-ins, which presumably makes it difficult for Goldfinger to recruit workers, so he's now got the idea that Pierre could summon zombies for him which could then work in the mines to extract the gold. Pierre has always refused as he has no real powers, but the crooks don't believe him which is why they have taken him. James decides they should head to the mine to save him.

James, Brigitte, Tracy, Gordo and IQ head out in a jeep towards the gold mine, but everyone is suffering from mosquito bites - except IQ, who has created an insect repellent device that employs magnetic fields to create a shield around him which the mosquitos simply bounce off. As they get closer to the mine, they decide to leave the vehicle and proceed on foot. They soon come across two of Goldfinger's henchmen, and Brigitte is the first to confront them, telling them to look in her eyes and 'tremble in the presence of the most powerful mambo (voodoo sorceress) in Haiti'. They don't seem convinced by this apparent attempt to hynotise them, but then a fist flies from nowhere, punching one of them in the face.

IQ then leads a charge against them, and the other henchman tries to punch him - but his fist just bounces away, and the henchman nurses his hand in pain. IQ realises that the anti-mosquito devices makes other 'foreign bodies' bounce away too, including fists! This seems to give him an idea to thwart Goldfinger, and they continue onwards to the gold mine. Here, Pierre is still trying to tell Goldfinger he has no powers, but to no avail; Goldfinger demands that he summon two zombies, 'the first of a long series'. If he doesn't, says Goldfinger, it will merely prove he doesn't want to cooperate - which will be very unpleasant for both him and Brigitte.

Concerned by the mention of Brigitte, Pierre makes a desperate show of an incantation, calling on the spirit of Baron Samedi and the 'diabolical powers of the seven hellish circles'. Meanwhile, in the bushes, Brigitte is expertly applying mud, leaves and torn clothes to make James and Gordo look like zombies, and they stumble out of the foliage, astonishing Pierre and making Goldfinger believe the incantation has worked. Now, he says, thanks to these 'ugly zombies', he'll be able to exploit his mine regardless of the cave-ins. But he's astounded when one of the zombies (who he hasn't recognised as James) responds to his insult in kind, calling him 'fatty' and 'lard ball'.

Furious, Goldfinger tells his henchmen to shoot the zombie, and they all obey, peppering James with bullets. But they all seem to bounce off him. 'Now it's my turn to have fun, fat boy,' James says, and begins staggering towards Goldfinger - who runs away, terrified, declaring, 'to hell with the mine'. His henchmen also scatter, and then Brigitte emerges from her hiding place with Tracy and IQ, so that Pierre finally realises James and Gordo aren't zombies after all. Pierre asks about the bullets, and IQ explains that James was using his anti-mosquito invention to deflect them. James declares that IQ is a 'clever and brilliant houngan', too, and everyone laughs.

Review: And now for something completely different. In some ways, this is a inversion of the old Scooby-Doo formula, given that the characters scaring the credulous locals with zombies are actually the ones James and friends set out to help. Is it plausible that Goldfinger thinks zombies are real? We think it's a bit of a stretch, really; but it's all good fun nonetheless. It's great to make a rare journey to the Caribbean with the franchise, and in line with most of the Corrierino series there's a genuine effort made to introduce nuggets of local specificity - compare and contrast with the TV episode City of Gold, which doesn't even name the island the gang are on. Pierre and Brigitte are both genuinely likeable characters, despite their eccentric ways; and we don't object to their not being the most upstanding of citizens, either, given their capacity for defrauding local farmers; they come across as deeply flawed, but not evil. However, one might've thought, in a comic aimed at kids, that the last frame or so might feature the pair seeing the error of their ways, and deciding to put their scam to rest. No such moral of the story here, however. We wouldn't even hazard a guess about how pleased Haitian folk would feel about the depiction of voodoo and its practitioners in this story - our default assumption with this kind of thing is 'not very' - although from our perspective, 'houngan' and 'mambo' are at least two words we didn't know prior to reading this. And that's one thing much of the Corrierino run has in common - its capacity to prompt visits to Wikipedia to read entries for terms and places we'd never encountered. One aspect of the story that surely wouldn't make it to print today is Zombie James's hat-trick of fat-shaming remarks as he stands up to Goldfinger; while it's difficult to feel much sympathy for the crook in this case, it's surprising through modern eyes to see the words coming out of the mouth of a protagonist in a kids' comic.

Highs: Brigitte does a great job of making up James and Gordo as zombies, in a very novel moment for the series. That said, they still - fairly unavoidably, given the timeframe she has to work with - look very much like James and Gordo, which makes Goldfinger's lack of recognition surprising; SCUM villains have a tendency not to recognise James's friends, but they almost always recognise James.

A gadget that can render James essentially invincible in the face of multiple rounds of bullets to the chest is probably taking IQ's ingenuity a step too far, and rather serves to sap the tension on the last page. Also, wasn't it rather a gamble that the device was going to work on bullets? What if the batteries ran out?

Lines to Remember:
Goldfinger: "Guards! Kill... uh... well, shoot this disrespectful walking corpse!"

Gadgets & Gizmos:
IQ's anti-mosquito device incorporates magnetic fields so powerful that entire people, and even bullets, bounce away from the user, making them essentially impervious to... well, anything, it seems.

SCUM on the Surface:
Yes, it's established that Brigitte is aware of SCUM and that Goldfinger is among its ranks.

Baron Samedi, the name invoked in desperation by Pierre when forced to attempt to summon zombies by Goldfinger, is the spirit of death in the Haitian Vodou religion. A voodoo priest thus named also appears in the 1973 James Bond film, Live and Let Die.

It's not 100% clear which of the gang punches the henchman on page 6. While such violence is normally the domain of James or Gordo, the next frame has IQ leading the charge - but it's not clear whether that's in support of James's first strike, or because he's just punched the henchman himself. If the latter, it would be very uncharacteristic of IQ; and also, shouldn't his anti-mosquito device stop him punching as well as taking punches?

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