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Corriere dei Piccoli / Corrierino 1993 #49
('Affari di Famiglia')
by Alberto Savini

Featuring: James, IQ, Tracy, Jaws, Nick Nack.

Synopsis: James, IQ and Tracy are on board a plane to Italy, and enjoying an apt in-flight meal of spaghetti. IQ has designed a spaghetti-winding gadget for just this eventuality, but it backfires when its rapid motor action douses the trio in the accompanying sauce. A couple of hours later, the gang have hired a car and are en route to the ancient city of Pompeii, which Tracy has always wanted to visit. Another car appears behind them and dangerously overtakes, almost causing a collision with a lorry approaching from the opposite direction.

In the car in question, Nick Nack tells Jaws to be more careful - at this rate he'll get his driving licence revoked - although Jaws' reply suggests he never bothered applying for one. When they arrive at the Pompeii visitor centre, James and the gang see that the car that overtook them is already in the car park. James seems keen to find the owner and confront them about their lousy driving - and given theirs are the only two cars present, it seems like his wish may come true.

Meanwhile, Jaws is (slowly) trying to make sense of a map he and Nick Nack are following, which we learn was created by Scumlord's grandfather! It shows the location of a painting that the grandfather stole from the Louvre many years ago and hid in Pompeii while waiting for the dust to settle. Nick Nack explains to Jaws that Scumlord's grandfather never had the chance to recover the stolen painting, but left the map to Scumlord as an inheritance (we're left to presume, when he died).

Nearby, James and friends are admiring the amphitheatre, when IQ spots Jaws and Nick Nack in the distance. They follow the crooks to an altar in some nearby ruins, under which Jaws says the stolen painting is hidden. But James, Tracy and IQ show themselves at this point, having overheard what was said about the painting. Jaws and Nick Nack squabble over who will take care of Bond; and Nick Nack wins out, wanting to test out a mean-looking grappling gun he claims he was given by Dr Derange.

IQ tries to bluff his way out of the situation by pretending his spaghetti-winder is a 'highly potent weapon'. Nick Nack just laughs, unimpressed, and fires the grappling gun at IQ, which binds him tightly in a thin thread. James has an idea, though, and takes the spaghetti-winder from IQ, turning it on so that when Nick Nack fires the grappling gun in his direction, the spaghetti-winder reels in the thread - and the grappling gun with it. James then turns the gun on Jaws and Nick Nack, leaving them bound together.

While the captured Jaws and Nick Nack fume and bicker nearby, James and friends recover the painting from underneath the altar, and are amazed when they unroll it to see that it's the Mona Lisa, or at least a strong likeness thereof. IQ suggests that it means the Mona Lisa currently on display at the Louvre must therefore be a fake, but James doesn't believe so - he thinks it's more likely that the one Scumlord's grandad stole is the fake. Tracy says it would make sense that SCUM's capacity for misfortune was a 'family affair'.

Review: Well, of all the things we were expecting to get from this deep-dive into the Italian comic scene, a glimpse of Scumlord's grandad was probably low on the list - and yet, here we are. While it's perhaps not a surprise to learn that the franchise's primary crook is of a crooked lineage, it's certainly the most (and only) information we get about Scumlord's personal background from any of the stories, including of the TV series; and the idea that he seemingly only managed to swipe a fake of the Mona Lisa is a fun detail, although we're not sure it makes a great deal of sense, unless perhaps James's grandfather or some other sleuth was also on the scene and swapped the paintings in anticipation that a theft was due to take place. IQ's own explanation, that the Mona Lisa at the Louvre is a fake left behind by Gramps, seems more logical, though it's perhaps understandable that the strip doesn't want to establish as canon that one of the world's most famous paintings is a cheap replica. Meanwhile, it's fun to see Jaws and Nick Nack making their only appearance in Corrierino's original stories, their bickering throughout feeling very consistent with what we know of them from TV; and it's written in a manner that's well suited to the lighter tone and sparser plot content of this story, whereas in many of the TV episodes their interplay can become a frustrating distraction. A fun and refreshing change from the norm, this one, all things considered.

Highs: As Nick Nack explains the history to Jaws and we readers, we see an illustration of Scumlord's grandfather sneaking through the Pompeii ruins with the rolled-up painting; he looks suitably evil and is wearing a green top hat and suit, with a brown cloak over the top. Unlike his grandson, though, it seems he isn't perpetually shrouded in shadow, and is depicted here in broad daylight, with his face on full view.

Lows: It's a low-stakes instalment all round, really, with the most peril faced by anyone being Nick Nack's grappling gun. That said, the strip is clearly aiming for a different-than-usual dynamic given Jaws and Nick Nack are the highest-ranking villains we actually see (discounting Gramps, of course), so life-or-death situations aren't really integral to what it's trying to do.

Gadgets & Gizmos: What else would one invent for a trip to Italy but a motorised spaghetti-winder? The gizmo automatically rolls liberal quantities of pasta around an integrated fork, while simultaneously splattering liberal quantities of pasta sauce over oneself and one's companions.

SCUM on the Surface: The introduction of Scumlord's grandfather to the canon raises interesting questions about the organisation's origins. Is the SCUM organisation itself something else that Scumlord inherited from Gramps, as a family business (which is an alternative translation of this strip's title)? It certainly seems like a possibility, at least.

Notes: It's implied Scumlord's grandfather was English; Jaws asks why he didn't flee directly from Paris to England with the painting, and Nick Nack explains it's because security was too high on the English border.

Despite Tracy claiming she's always dreamed of going to Pompeii, this is her second visit in terms of chronological release, following the inevitably named Pompeii and Circumstance from the TV series.

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