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Corriere dei Piccoli / Corrierino 1993 #39
('L'Arma Venuta dal Passato')
by Federica Montanari

Featuring: James, IQ, Tracy, Gordo, Phoebe, Baron von Skarin.

Synopsis: James, IQ and Gordo are sitting a maths exam. James whispers to IQ to see how he's doing; IQ checks his results with a device that looks vaguely like a calculator. But it has the undesired effect of activating the lights, television and the cleaning lady's vacuum. Embarrassed, IQ explains to the teacher that it's a computer calculator, and the infrared system it uses for connections with computers can also affect electrical impulses in nearby appliances. Later, on the beach near the school, James, Gordo, IQ, Phoebe, Tracy and a classmate, Sandy, are hanging out. Sandy volunteers that she really likes IQ's computer calculator invention, and they walk off down the beach together discussing the technical details.

Tracy opines that Sandy's perfect for IQ, and James agrees, saying it's rare to find a girl with such scientific interests. Meanwhile, a cave in the cliffs attracts Sandy's interest, and she and IQ venture inside. They soon find a strange stone object, in the shape of a disc with five turrets, whose purpose is unclear, though Sandy feels that she's seen it before somewhere. They return to the others to show them the object, but a biker appears suddenly, claiming the object belongs to someone else. Instead of just taking the object, he grabs Sandy, who's holding it, and roars away with her on his bike. James pursues in a beach buggy, but the biker releases a supply of glass shards from the back of his bike in an attempt to wreck James's tyres.

James dodges the shards, and skids violently in the sand, blasting the biker with a cloud of dust so that he can't see temporarily. This enables James to rescue Sandy, who's still holding onto the mysterious object, and they return to the gang. Sandy has remembered where she's seen the object before, and leads James and IQ back to (presumably) her house, where she shows the gang a picture of the object in a book. Reading, James and IQ learn that the object was made by druids 3,000 years ago, and belonged to ancient Celtic priests. According to the book, it would have been a deadly weapon. Sandy decides that they should consult her father, who she explains is an expert in archaeology.

Shortly afterwards, Sandy's father confirms that he believes the object has enormous powers. According to legend, if it is aligned with the stars in a particular way so that the light passes through the holes in it, it could release so much energy that it could attract meteorites wandering in space down to earth. James has a bad feeling about why the biker wanted it; and at that moment, the biker himself bursts into the house, accompanied by Baron von Skarin, who demands they hand over the mysterious object. Seemingly keen to protect Sandy, IQ hands the object to the Baron, who says he has been looking for it for months, and that it will help him make a lot of money from world governments which will be keen to avoid a meteor shower!

The biker ties up James, IQ, Sandy and her father, and the crooks leave, but James manages to free everybody with the micro-saw in his watch. IQ reveals that when he gave the biker the object, he put a special pen in his pocket at the same time which emits a homing signal. James and IQ follow the signal by car, using IQ's watch, and they soon identify von Skarin's van. James has an idea to slow the crooks down, deploying IQ's computer calculator to cause havoc by sending some nearby traffic lights haywire. It causes von Skarin's van to crash, and the mysterious object is destroyed in the impact.

Later back at Warfield, IQ laments the loss of the object as he won't be able to conduct research on it, but Sandy turns up and tells him her father has learned the cave they found it in was a sacred place to the druids, which they also used as a secret laboratory to conduct research. Sandy explains she's going to be helping her father with the excavations for a while. James tries to encourage IQ to ask Sandy on a date, by telling her IQ has a question for her. But instead of asking her out, IQ simply asks if he could attend the excavations every now and then, in the hope of finding something interesting. 'Ah, men!' laughs Sandy, and James remarks that at least IQ's always consistent.

Review: A fun entry into the series with a strong focus on IQ, which is always welcome. It's far from the only story in the franchise to deal with a SCUM threat of celestial bodies raining down on earth; Barbella's Big Attraction, Killer Asteroid and Terror on Christmas Eve all deal with similar subject matter, though often more directly as we actually see the asteroids or comets in question and deal with more specific plans to bring them down. The interest with this story, however, is perhaps more in the druids who inhabited the cave and their mysterious device, which seems as with artefacts in a handful of other James Bond Jr stories to transcend scientific interest and play at the edges of the world of the supernatural. Given the cave is in the cliffs next to Warfield, it also raises tantalising possibilities about the history of the site more generally, and whether its significance dates much further back in time than Warfield's days as a counterintelligence base. Combined with some strong action elements such as the vehicle chases, and some stronger-than-usual characterisation (see 'Highs'), it makes for a solid and intriguing instalment overall.

Highs: It's refreshingly rare when the 'guest girl' of the day - Sandy, in this case - is a love interest for IQ, rather than James. It's also one of James's (arguably few) redeeming features - aside from being good at defeating international criminals - that he always shows such concern for IQ's romantic life; and it's sweet how he tries to help him ask Sandy out at the end. Only for IQ to completely balls it up, but the thought was there.

Lows: Given Baron von Skarin has gone to the trouble of hiring himself an unnamed biker goon, why did he not renew his acquaintance with Spoiler - one of the rarer but more enjoyable henchmen from the TV series, who would have been ideal in this role?

Gadgets & Gizmos: IQ's computer calculator seems rather better at turning on and off third-party appliances than achieving anything of its own accord, in scenes reminiscent of his remote starter gadget from the TV episode No Time to Lose. James's watch buzzsaw makes an appearance too, while IQ has also invented a pen that emits a homing signal, because he's always losing them; it sends pulses to his watch.

Lines to Remember:
James, impressed at IQ's inventions: If you didn't exist, we'd have to invent you, IQ!

SCUM on the Surface:
Once again, SCUM goes without a mention in this strip.

Notes: It's not clear whose car James and IQ leap into to pursue the Baron's van, but it certainly not James's usual sports car.

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