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James Bond Jr Online


Corriere dei Piccoli / Corrierino 1993 #34
by Dimitry Dinkum

Featuring: James, IQ, Tracy, Gordo, Phoebe, Trevor, Scumlord, Baron von Skarin, Barbella, Ms Fortune, Snuffer

Synopsis: We start out in a standard-issue villainous lair belonging to Scumlord, who informs Ms Fortune via his giant telescreen that she is to provide logistical support for Baron von Skarin in some thus far unexplained scheme, including the use of her yacht. Ms Fortune has a bit of a grumble about being forced to work with other crooks, but Scumlord warns her that if Operation Checkmate fails, somebody will pay. Ms Fortune says this is understood, and tells Scumlord that von Skarin is touching down next to the yacht now in a seaplane. On deck, Snuffer and some uniformed SCUM agents are waiting to greet him.

Meanwhile, James, IQ, Tracy, Gordo and Phoebe are soaking up the sun on a beach at Cannes, on the French Riviera. But Tracy reminds them they're really here to support the Warfield Academy chess champion in an interschool tournament. IQ has created a computer chess device to assist the champion's game; and the champion soon calls the group via the integrated radio, begging for help because Irina Pietrova from the Tolstoy Academy in Moscow has arrived. The gang head to the Carlton Hotel, where the chess tournament is taking place.

Phoebe queries whether it's dishonest to give hints to their player using the computer chess system. James then reveals to us that the champ in question is Trevor, and says that with all his deficiencies, any help they give will barely bring him on par with the other competitors. Trevor is already visibly sweating in his match with Irina Pietrova, but James is more interested in the person standing behind Irina - Barbella! The moment she's recognised, Barbella grabs Irina, attempting to drag her away. Trevor's immediate reaction is to proclaim his victory because Irina has 'abandoned' the match!

But James pursues Barbella, and outside on the beach, the pair get into a brawl. IQ throws James the only thing he has to hand that might come in useful - the bronzing cream he's created. It caused IQ to sneeze, and when James rubs it on Barbella's face, it has the same effect on her. James, IQ and Irina run off, leaving Barbella sneezing uncontrollably. But nearby at the dock, Irina tells James and IQ she's confused by Barbella's behaviour, revealing that Barbella is her chess coach - a recent replacement for a previous coach who had an unfortunate accident. IQ suggests that there was nothing accidental about it.

The involvement of SCUM in proceedings is only made clearer to the gang when they spot Snuffer heading out to sea in a speedboat with Barbella, en route back to Ms Fortune's yacht. James asks what interest the organisation might have in Irina, but she insists she doesn't know - Barbella simply showed up to offer her services, bearing a chessboard as a gift. IQ says it must be an ancient chessboard, as he points his camera out to see towards Ms Fortune's yacht - where Snuffer is passing said chessboard to Ms Fortune. IQ estimates it's a precious artefact from the late 17th century, and Irina confirms that's the board she was given; Barbella told her it belonged to the Russian tsar Peter the Great.

James wonders why SCUM would use Irina to bring the chessboard out of Russia, saying it must be more than a simple smuggling operation; there must be something hidden within it. Stripping to his swimming trunks, James sends Gordo to fetch some water skis from a nearby rental hut. Giving James the computer chess system's integrated radio, IQ says he'll keep an eye on SCUM from the shore with his camera, and stay in touch. On the yacht, Barbella, Snuffer and Ms Fortune have spotted James approaching on the water skis, pulled by Gordo in a speedboat. Baron von Skarin is now also aboard with his dog Schnitzel, and Ms Fortune suggests he uses one of his 'precision weapons' to 'checkmate' the intruder.

IQ radios to James, to tell him that von Skarin is on the yacht, and shooting at him. Undeterred, James uses the Baron's seaplane as a launchpad for his skis, and flies towards the yacht; meanwhile, the Baron has only succeeded in blowing up the seaplane with his weapons! As IQ reports that Ms Fortune has the chessboard, James swoops in and grabs it out of her hands. The villains reveal as James speeds away that the chessboard contained electronic detonators for nuclear warheads they've been attempting to sell; now the detonators have gone, their plans are ruined. Back on shore, James shows the gang the detonators and declares 'checkmate' against SCUM. Trevor, meanwhile, is annoyed that the attention isn't all on him, having won the chess comp trophy 'all by himself', as James puts it.

Review: It's always a novelty to see more than one SCUM head honcho collaborating, and in this case we have four if you count both Scumlord and Barbella; but it's easy to see, with access to nuclear weapons at stake, why so many key personnel were drafted in. It's certainly an original story and works well, all things told, particularly the chess theme which adds a layer of intrigue on top of the usual dose of action. Barbella is possibly a curious choice as even a fake chess coach, given she's famed for her brawn as opposed to her brains; nonetheless, she's perhaps just devious enough to get away with it. Meanwhile, it's great to see the whole Warfield student gang present, which is more of a rarity for the comics, in particular Trevor who's on finest obnoxious form - declaring his opponent has forfeit the chess game while she's still being dragged from the room by a kidnapper right in front of his eyes. There are also a few nice aesthetic touches that add colour to help make this story stand out from the crowd - see 'Highs' below, and also the SCUM agent bringing Scumlord an iced drink on a tray at his secret headquarters.

Highs: In a significant upgrade from his canine companions of the TV episodes, Scumlord now has a massive, snarling cheetah on a chain by his side, whom he casually feeds raw meat while instructing his underlings via telescreen.

While they concede it's unlikely to give him enough of an advantage to win the tournament because he's such a bad chess player, James and IQ do actually conspire to help Trevor cheat here, which doesn't quite seem on-brand; certainly were this a TV episode, one would imagine they would be actively trying to stop him from cheating.

Gadgets & Gizmos:
Following the events of An Unrelaxing Holiday, IQ has ditched his sunscreen formula in favour of a bronzing cream, but it's still more successful at causing allergic reactions than facilitating a decent tan; this time it makes him sneeze, though, rather than bringing him out in blotches. He's also (most uncharacteristically) created a self-memorising, closed-circuit microvideo computer chess player to help Trevor cheat in the tournament; and has packed a camera with a telephoto lens for good measure, which enables illicit SCUM exchanges to be observed from a distance.

SCUM on the Surface:
Very much so. Scumlord himself (to say nothing of the cheetah) and uniformed goons are in attendance, and this instalment boasts one of the largest ever rosters of recurring villains overall, with Ms Fortune, Snuffer, Baron von Skarin and Barbella all also playing a part in the action.

Baron von Skarin and Ms Fortune also collaborated in the original Marvel comic story, Indian Summer.

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