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James Bond Jr Online


Corriere dei Piccoli / Corrierino 1993 #44
by Alberto Savini

Featuring: James, IQ, Tracy, Phoebe, Scumlord, Ms Fortune, Snuffer.

Synopsis: On a beach on the Greek island of Crete, James, Tracy and Phoebe are happily sunbathing, but IQ is struggling with the heat, despite the fact it's the autumn. He outlines what he'd really like to be doing while they're here - visiting the Heraklion Musuem and the Palace of Knossos. Meanwhile, Ms Fortune and Snuffer are on a yacht moored at Heraklion port. Scumlord has a new task for them: to steal the Phaistos Disc, an ancient artefact forged from a meteorite composed of tryptonium, a rare metal that emits violent vibrations when combined with other elements. In the right hands, says Scumlord, it could prove a deadly weapon.

Scumlord's intel comes from a parchment stolen by Jaws some time ago, which also explains that, since the meteorite came from the heavens, it was worshipped as a gift from the gods - until a priest became jealous of the reverence it inspired, and hid it. He tells Ms Fortune that a copy is on display at the museum, but that the original is hidden in the labyrinth at the Palace of Knossos, the setting of the myth of Theseus, Ariadne and the Minotaur. Meanwhile at the Warfielders' hotel, IQ showcases his latest invention, a self-inflating dinghy. James, Tracy and Phoebe have rented motorbikes to take them into Heraklion. IQ isn't impressed with the state of the bikes and wants to modify them, but James tells him they only have five hours till the museum closes.

At Knossos, Ms Fortune and Snuffer quickly find the entrance to a secret passage leading to the labyrinth, as per Scumlord's instructions. Ms Fortune tells Snuffer not to open it now; the site is too busy, so they'll come back tonight when there are no guards. Then they can transport the disc out of the area by helicopter. At the museum in Heraklion, Phoebe, James, Tracy and IQ admire the replica of the Phaistos Disc, and James fills the others in on the legend of the meteorite. IQ and Tracy joke that they might find the real disc in the Minoan labyrinth when they go to visit the ruins.

Later, IQ and James get a drink while waiting for Tracy and Phoebe to return from a shopping trip. They soon spot Ms Fortune and Snuffer heading for the yacht - and when the girls arrive, James and friends wait till nightfall near the dock to see if they can catch a glimpse of anything Ms Fortune may be up to. Sure enough, a helicopter takes off from the yacht, and James wakes up his dozing friends and hurries them onto the motorbikes to trail the chopper. (Phoebe doesn't have a licence, but it doesn't stop her taking the driver's seat.) The crooks look to be heading to Knossos; Tracy isn't convinced the decrepit bikes will last the distance, but James is willing to risk it.

Ms Fortune and Snuffer approach the ancient palace in the helicopter. There are two guards on duty after all,  and Ms Fortune passes Snuffer some kind of tranquiliser gun with which to put the guards to sleep - and a 'light bomb' to use as backup in case he misses. He's a good aim, though; and as Snuffer and Ms Fortune head into the palace, James and the gang reach the perimeter fence on their bikes, and begin to climb over it - much to IQ's discomfort, as he declares himself 'a man of thought, not of action'! Meanwhile, Snuffer is thrilled to be in the legendary Minoan labyrinth, and admires the ornate architecture, but Ms Fortune is utterly uninterested. She ties a thread to the post near the entrance so they can find their way out, just like in the Ariadne myth.

Outside, James and the gang have found the unconscious guards. Tracy wonders if they're dead, but James assures her they're just sleeping, and assumes a narcotic dart rifle is to blame. Back in the labyrinth, Ms Fortune is terrified by a statue of the Minotaur, until Snuffer assures her it's not real. The giant axe that then swings down from above the statue is very real indeed, but Snuffer pulls Ms Fortune out of its path just in time. Finally, at the centre of the labyrinth, they find the original Phaistos Disc. Ms Fortune declares that Scumlord will be delighted, but at that point James and friends come in; James says the disc should be for the Greek government to display in a museum.

Snuffer fires his dart rifle at James, but the darts miss, and he's out of ammo. However, he still has the 'light bomb' that Ms Fortune gave him as backup earlier. She urges him not to use it in here, but he flings it towards James and friends, and it explodes, creating a hole in the labyrinth wall from which water begins to pour. As the chamber fills quickly, James tells his friends to run. Tracy asks about the Phaistos Disc, but Phoebe tells her to leave it and concentrate on getting out. IQ remembers the self-inflating dinghy, and everyone gets aboard including Ms Fortune and Snuffer.

Snuffer thanks James for saving them; James replies he couldn't let them drown, but that there will be a reckoning when they are safely outside. However, as the gang lie soaked and exhausted in the palace grounds, Phoebe spots Ms Fortune and Snuffer sneaking away. James opts to let them go, as he doesn't have the strength to chase them; Tracy says Scumlord will surely punish them in any case. IQ laments that the Phaistos Disc is lost in the now flooded labyrinth, but James replies that it's better that way - as it proved too dangerous. Phoebe heartily agrees.

Review: One of the best and also lengthiest of the Corrierino run, clocking in at 12 pages, this really does feel like it could be a full-length TV episode. It goes to considerable lengths to utilise well-known Greek mythology to further the  depth and atmosphere of the story; like many strips in the series, there's a lot of specificity here in terms of the locale, bringing authentic flavour and unique visuals to proceedings more successfully than some of the TV episodes were able. This instalment also creates an intriguing original mythos of its own involving the meteorite and the jealous ancient priest, enhancing the sense of mystery and adventure. Ms Fortune and Snuffer, who are very much a staple of the Italian comics, are so much fun that they almost start to feel like protagonists towards the end as they face the dangers of the labyrinth, with Snuffer in particular even thanking James for helping them to escape when the water floods in. The increased pagination also allows for breathing space to enable more moments of characterisation than usual for the Warfield gang, such as Phoebe's unlicensed motorbike-riding, IQ's hesitancy to scale the security fence, and his obsession with his inventions forcing everyone else to wait for him while he works on them.

Highs: Ms Fortune's trademark philistinism is on fine form here. She initially thinks the Phaistos Disc is a CD, and later moans at length to Snuffer, who's actually excited by the architecture of the ancient labyrinth, about how she about how she loathes art and antiquities (see 'Lines to Remember').

James is often relatively circumspect about the villains escaping at the end of stories, presumably so it makes sense when they return for a later adventure. But this takes it to a new extreme, as he outright declares he doesn't have the strength to bother chasisng them, and tells his friends to let them go.

Lines to Remember:
Snuffer: Aren't you excited, Ma'am? We are in the legendary labyrinth of Minos!
Ms Fortune: Pah! If it weren't for the Phaistos Disc, I'd gladly do without it. I hate antiquities.
It's... it's magnificent. A masterpiece...
Ms Fortune:
Oh, stop it, Snuffer! You know that the only art I appreciate is that on large denomination banknotes! Instead, help me tie this nylon thread to the post. We'll need it to find the exit.
Ah! Ariadne's thread!
Ms Fortune:
No, it's not Ariadne's! The thread is mine!
Snuffer (facepalm):
Oh, dear.

Gadgets & Gizmos: IQ's self-inflating dinghy folds to such a small size that it can easily fit in a pocket. He is also keen to make improvements to the motorbikes James hires, but is quickly disabused of this notion. Meanwhile, Snuffer's narcotic dart rifle is a sure bet for rendering its targets immediately unconscious.

SCUM on the Surface:
Scumlord gives the orders here, albeit doesn't supply any additional personnel to assist Ms Fortune and Snuffer in their mission.

The Phaistos Disc is a real artefact, though the version in the archaeological museum at Heraklion is thought to be the original, not a duplicate - and it is made of clay, not metal. It is also only 15cm wide, unlike the massive versions depicted in this strip. (We'll put it down to creative licence.) The associated meteorite legend appears to be an invention of the writer of this story, although the legend of Theseus and Ariadne is, of course, a well-established one.

Unusually, Jaws is mentioned as having stolen the parchment from which Scumlord got his information on the Phaistos Disc, but does not actually appear in this story.

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