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Corriere dei Piccoli / Corrierino 1993 #52
('Il Tesoro delle Scimmie')
by Federica Montanari

Featuring: James, IQ, TracyPhoebe, Ms Fortune, Snuffer.

Synopsis: At the Temple of the Monkeys on the island of Bali, a young woman standing amidst a group of monkeys is snatched by unseen assailants, and pulled into the undergrowth. One monkey in particular, with a bell around its neck, seems very distressed about this. Meanwhile, nearby, James, IQ, Tracy and Phoebe are visiting the area, part of a school trip to study Indonesian architecture. James remarks that he doesn't feel very comfortable wearing a sarong as required at the site, but IQ tells him he needs to adapt to the environment. At this moment, the monkey with the bell around its neck leaps at James and latches itself around his neck.

An old woman appears, who explains that this is the Sacred Monkey, and the fact it has chosen James is a great honour. She says the monkey has seen that he is trustworthy and can help them, going on to explain that her daughter, the Princess Made, was kidnapped by strangers when she visited the temple with offerings as she does every morning. When James responds that he's not sure how he can help, the old woman simply retorts that the Sacred Monkey is never wrong, and walks off. The Sacred Monkey goes with her, then returns holding a photograph of the princess. The monkey then leads them into the forest.

Meanwhile, Ms Fortune is at another nearby temple with Snuffer and miscellaneous henchmen, and has the Princess Made tied to a stone pillar outside. Ms Fortune demands that Made tell her where the temple treasure is, but Made refuses, saying it's sacred, so Ms Fortune threatens to turn ill-mannered. IQ and James are following the Sacred Monkey through the jungle nearby, when they overhear Ms Fortune talking, saying she knows precious jewels are hidden here. Made retorts that they belong to the monkeys. At this point, two of the henchmen on guard patrol spot James and IQ, and don't buy their excuse that they stumbled here by chance.

IQ and James run, and the henchmen pursue. One of them tackles IQ to the ground, and James follows IQ's instruction to keep running. The second henchman lunges to grab James, but he uses a vine to swing across a ravine to safety. A third henchman is standing in wait for him, but James dispatches him with a powerful kick to the chest, then heads off to try and free Made and IQ. As he runs, he slips on the head of the giant statue that forms the centrepiece of the temple, and begins to slide down it. Meanwhile at the statue's base, Ms Fortune threatens to blow up the temple entrance if Made doesn't tell her where the treasure is...

James continues to slip down the face of the giant statue, and ends up hanging off its nose. But the nose appears to be a lever, which opens a secret passage in the statue's belly. Realising this is the hiding place of the treasure, Ms Fortune thanks James, and heads inside with Snuffer - telling her henchman to get James down and tie him up with the others. But James leaps on top of the henchman, booting him in the face, then unties Made and IQ. Another henchman appears, but James employs a function on his watch to capture the bad guy in a mesh net. James, Made and IQ then head into the temple to stop Ms Fortune.

The secret chamber in the temple is full of priceless golden artefacts and gems, but James is more interested in a lever that he finds on the ceiling, and decides to pull it, suggesting it must be 'the safety device'. A loud rumbling fills the air, as the chamber begins to collapse around them. James, Made and IQ rush out of the secret entrance, followed by Ms Fortune and Snuffer - who lament the loss of the treasure as a rock-slide buries the passage to the treasure room. Made thanks James for saving the treasure, and gives him with a kiss on the cheek for his troubles - while IQ remarks that James always gets the best rewards.

Review: Yet another of the Corrierino stories to feature Ms Fortune as miscreant-in-chief, this 10-page instalment allows more space for world-building than some of the slightly shorter outings in the run, and the Balinese forest backdrop offers a fresh and intriguing setting that brings a great deal of authentic-feeling local flavour (see 'Notes') to the adventure at hand. The presence of the Sacred Monkey and the old lady who puts her trust in its 'choosing' of James provide a unique and refreshing in-road to the action, although it isn't made clear, if Made is a princess, what status her mother holds - is she a queen, perhaps? Male herself is a bit of a traditional damsel, except to say that she does give Ms Fortune a bit of welcome backchat. The ending, in which James manages to lay waste to yet another ancient heritage site to the jubilation of all except the villains, is a little bit wearisome by this point - but at least in this case, unlike with similar rampages of wanton destruction in some of the TV episodes, the lever in the treasure room implies that the entire thing was constructed with the 'nuclear option' in mind.

Highs: Much as we don't condone violence, it's surprisingly satisfying to see James employing a bit of good old-fashioned kicking technique to take out two of Ms Fortune's henchmen - you can practically hear it - while only needing to resort to gadgets for one other.

IQ makes a rather uncalled-for remark about the old lady, to the effect that for once it's not a young, pretty woman asking for James's help - and when James sees the picture of her daughter Princess Made, who he decides is young and pretty, he's quick to gloat to IQ about it.

Gadgets & Gizmos:
Unusually, it isn't trailed earlier in the story prior to being used, but the latest attachment mounted to James's watch by IQ shoots out a high-strength mesh to snare enemy agents.

SCUM on the Surface:
Not mentioned, again. Ms Fortune's goons are dressed in matching uniforms, but they are all-yellow safari-style outfits with black berets, rather than SCUM-issue apparel.

Loco Parenthesis:
James makes a point of saying at the start that attending a VIP school has its advantages, such as school trips. But there isn't a teacher in sight on this one.

O Mother, Where Art Thou:
Finally, somebody's mother appears! And she's an imposing presence too, telling James in no uncertain terms - who's unusually hesitant about getting involved when learning of Made's kidnap - that it's his duty, nay his honour, to intervene, because the Sacred Monkey has chosen him and is never wrong.

The location in this strip may be loosely based on Bali's real-life Sacred Monkey Forest in Ubud, which is a sanctuary for long-tailed macaques and contains three Hindu temples. Visitors are asked to wear a sarong as per the local custom as a mark of respect, as seen with the four Warfielders in this strip (though hopefully real-life visitors are less inclined than James to whinge about it).

While Phoebe is present here, it's only in one frame and she's given no words to say.

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