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Corriere dei Piccoli / Corrierino 1993 #48
('Lo Scettro di Napoleone')

Featuring: James, IQ, Ms Fortune, Snuffer.

Synopsis: James and IQ are in Paris, testing out IQ's latest invention - a pair of rotor backpacks which allow them to fly around the city, beating the traffic jams and bemusing onlookers. James jokes they could land up in jail, but admits the invention is very useful - as the pair make it from the Arc de Triomphe to La Grande Arche de la Défense in less than five minutes. However, when they land, they're issued with a fine both for unauthorised flight and for speeding - by an officious gendarme who appears to stoke IQ's ire further by mistaking them for Americans.

The gendarme confiscates the rotor backpacks, but James encourages IQ to enjoy the sights and the museum exhibition they're headed to, of treasures of the emperor Napoleon - then they can think about getting back his inventions tomorrow. Meanwhile in a helicopter, Ms Fortune, Snuffer and a militia gang are preparing to do Scumlord's latest bidding; he wants them to steal Napoleon's sceptre from the exhibition. The helicopter descends and the militia team heads for the exhibition - but they're accosted by the same officious gendarme who fined James and IQ! Annoyed to see more tourists with a 'craze for flying', he then notices they have guns and calls out for them to stop - but one of the goons simply shoots him with a tranquiliser dart gun, knocking him out.

James and IQ are looking around the exhibition when the militia burst in, telling everyone to put their hands up and they won't be harmed. One of the henchman idly considers stealing some of the other artefacts, too, but his colleague tells him they shouldn't take unnecessary risks to avoid incurring SCUM's wrath. Hearing that SCUM is involved, the boys decide to wait for them to escape. Soon, one of the militia steals Napoleon's sceptre, smashing its display case, and declares Ms Fortune will be happy - before escaping with his crooked colleagues. James and IQ pursue and see them enter the helicopter. IQ gives up hope of stopping them, but James remembers the rotor backpacks, and they return to where the gendarme had confiscated them.

With the gendarme still asleep, they reclaim the backpacks and put them on. Ms Fortune and Snuffer see them below as the helicopter lifts off, and Ms Fortune gloats as this time, James is too late to stop her. But James and IQ lift off using the rotor backpacks, horrifying Ms Fortune and Snuffer as they pursue the chopper. As James and IQ close in, the militia begin firing tranquiliser darts at them. James swoops down towards a residential area, having spotted a way to stop the crooks; with IQ's help, he pulls a TV aerial off a house. Then they pursue the chopper again, just as it approaches the Eiffel Tower (which Snuffer quietly hopes Scumlord never asks them to steal!)

James and IQ hover above the chopper, waiting till it moves over the River Seine. at this point, they drop the TV aerial into the helicopter's rotors, breaking them. The helicopter plummets into the river, landing with an almighty splash. Later, the gendarmes show up; they arrest the militia gang, but inform James and IQ that Ms Fortune and Snuffer have escaped. One of the gendarmes thanks James and IQ for aiding France, but their officious friend from earlier is also on the scene - and swiftly issues them with another fine for unauthorised flights, as well as damage to the TV antenna! James wraps things up with a despairing facepalm.

Review: James Bond Jr's third trip to Paris following the events of The Eiffel Missile and The Art of Evil, this is a particularly visually appealing instalment of the Corrierino series, with a lot of high-flying action as a result of IQ's latest invention (see 'Gadgets & Gizmos', below), allowing various of the city's famous landmarks to be showcased from above. The villains work well, here, too; while Ms Fortune and Snuffer are in the frame yet again, their new khaki-clad militia crew provide a fresh sense of physical threat, while the second half of the strip refocuses its attention on the aristocrat and butler themselves, who go from gloating to weary resignation as James and IQ literally rise to the challenge of bringing them down. While the thrills are high, the stakes are arguably rather lower, not least because bog-standard artefact theft plots aren't actually putting the world at risk - and when you consider the personal risk James sometimes puts himself and his friends at to recover them, it can seem a little disproportionate, as in this case.

As well as action, there's a good dose of humour packed in here, not least because of the recurring jobsworth gendarme who has it in for James and IQ; although it must be said, there's also a certain amount of satisfaction to be gained from seeing them finally held to account for some pretty reckless behaviour.

Not a lot of niggles here, all in all, though if we have to pick one it's that it isn't entirely clear what happens to the sceptre. We see it flying around the helicopter as it plummets to earth, but its absence from the final frame leaves open the possibility either that the crooks escaped with it, or it was lost in the Seine.

Lines to Remember:
Ms Fortune: Bond has found a way to chase us!
Snuffer: But it's impossible! We're flying!
Ms Fortune (sighing): So are they, Snuffer... so are they!

James, untroubled by the militia's tranquiliser guns: Pah! English mosquitoes are worse than these darts!

Gadgets & Gizmos:
IQ's pair of rotor backpacks perhaps have the most mileage out of any of his inventions so far, both literally and in storytelling terms. Like helicopters, they comprise a small rotor at the back which spins north-to-south, and a much larger rotor above the wearer's head, spinning east-to-west. A control belt and backpack strapped to the user complete the outfit.

SCUM on the Surface:
We learn that Napoleon's sceptre has been specifically requested by Scumlord, though we don't see him in this story.

Blunders & Bloopers:
For the second consecutive strip in the run, the writing and artwork credits are omitted, despite being present on all 30 of the other stories.

The sceptre of Charles V, otherwise known as the sceptre of Charlemagne, was traditionally used during French coronations, supposedly including Napoleon's. It's unclear whether this sceptre is the one featured in this comic story.

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