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Corriere dei Piccoli / Corrierino 1994 #01
('Il Tesoro del Pirata Lafitte')
by Alberto Savini

Featuring: James, IQ, Tracy, Gordo, Ms Fortune, Snuffer.

Synopsis: James, Gordo, Tracy and IQ are drifting on a sailboat towards a deserted tropical island of unspecified location. The context: James has acquired an old parchment from a second-hand dealer which he's surmised is a treasure map, but Gordo is highly sceptical, suggesting it's probably just a fairy-tale. Tracy says that even if it is, they get to spend a week in beautiful tropical waters. IQ, meanwhile, hopes to test three new inventions. When they reach the island, IQ expresses a hope that the ghosts the fishermen back on the mainland told them about don't really exit. James assures him it's just a classic seafaring fantasy. 'Speaking of fantasies,' scoffs Gordo, 'shall we begin the search for the treasure?' James says the map suggests it's at the centre of the island...

... as is Ms Fortune, who is sunbathing at a villa in the middle of the jungle. Snuffer reports that their detectors have picked up the presence of four intruders on the island. Guessing that it's just fishermen, Ms Fortune tells Snuffer to scare them off via the 'usual system' - a prospect he relishes, saying that 'pirate ghosts never fail'. Sure enough, James and the gang are confronted on the beach by groaning, cutlass-wielding ghost-pirates. While Gordo, Tracy and IQ are scared, it's now James's turn to be sceptical, and he lunges towards the pirates despite Gordo's protestations. His hand goes straight through one of them, and he soon reveals why - it's not a ghost, but a hologram, created by a projector hidden in the foliage.

James and friends head on into the jungle, following the path of the wire from the projector. Snuffer now sees them on the telescreen and realises who they are. When he reports back to Ms Fortune, she's so furious that her screamed response sends distant birds scattering! 'Them? Here? It is not possible!' When Snuffer asks what he should do, she orders him to release the snakes! Soon enough, a series of remote-controlled cages open in the jungle, and huge poisonous cobras crawl out. Gordo dismisses them as more holograms, but James points out that they cast shadows - so must be real. He borrows one of IQ's gadgets, an ultrasonic fish call, and blows on it, explaining that snakes hate ultrasound - and since it didn't work on fish, he thought it worth a try.

Back at the villa, Snuffer reports that the snakes have fled, but Ms Fortune is unconcerned, as she points out that James and friends are approaching the minefield. Some objects that look like coconuts attract James's attention, and he throws one, only for it to explode dramatically. Tracy says they can't walk through a minefield, but another of IQ's inventions - a laser metal-detector - enables them to move through the area without disturbing any more of the devices. Ms Fortune is furious as she watches on the telescreen, as James and his friends are getting close to their location. Snuffer says they should 'shield the villa', and at the click of a button, thick metal panels rise from the ground around the house, creating a high solid steel wall around the property.

James tells IQ to operate his third gadget, the 'Scalda-Scalda', which starts to raise the temperature not only of the steel enclosure, but everything within it - including Ms Fortune and Snuffer, who complains it must be at least 60 degrees in there. Unable to stand the heat, they fly out of the compound in a helicopter, at which point the gang recognise them. Tracy wonders what criminal enterprise they were masterminding, and James replies that they will never know, as the chopper speeds away. Meanwhile, Gordo notices as the sun's rays reflect off a buried object in the ground, which James says looks like the corner of a chest. Sure enough, they've found the buried treasure from the map, and celebrate. In the chopper, Ms Fortune complains she was doing nothing wrong for once and just enjoying a peaceful holiday, until those 'damned pains in the neck' went and ruined it.

Review: It's with not inconsiderable sadness that we acknowledge this is the last known story to have been published within the Corrierino run; and if you exclude the Marvel UK mini-series, the last ever in the franchise. But for our money, it's a fitting end - perhaps more fitting than Marvel's Homeward Bound which, before these Corrierino strips were unearthed, we had erroneously awarded the title of final instalment. Yes, that was an 'all-villain issue', and yes, it saw said villains go after James himself in what seemed like a logical last-ditch offensive for the series; but we now know that the Corrierino comics in Italy brought a belated new lease of life to James Bond Jr, opening doors to all manner of new adventures that many outside of Italy are only recently discovering. Corrierino specifically seems to have embraced the aristocratic philistinism of Ms Fortune and her mean-spirited manservant wholeheartedly, and so it's great to see them get the final outing here, in a refreshingly different story that eschews the Bond girls and sprawling SCUM schemes, but nonetheless foregrounds Bond Jr's penchant for exotic locales, larger-than-life villains and rafts of daft gizmos. And who can say no to a holographic ghost pirate?

Highs: Ms Fortune's final-frame revelation, that she wasn't actually engaged in a villainous scheme but simply trying to enjoy a peaceful holiday, is a delicious twist - completely unique within the canon, and a wonderful way to round things off.

James Bond Jr won't return - or will he?

Gadgets & Gizmos:
IQ's hat-trick of island inventions comprises a laser-powered metal detector, useful for sniffing out mines disguised as coconuts; a 'Scalda-Scalda' (it translates as 'Warmer-Warmer', but Scalda-Scalda sounds much better) whose applications include heating up - and perhaps melting? - thick steel walls; and an ultrasonic fish caller, which doesn't attract fish, but does ward off giant cobras.

SCUM on the Surface:
The helicopter in which Ms Fortune and Snuffer escape has the word 'SCUM' written in huge letters on the bottom, lest we were in any doubt - a fond final farewell to the world's worstest.

O Mother, Where Art Thou:
'Oh, Mamma!' exclaims Gordo (in Italian) when the holographic ghost pirates appear.

Jean Lafitte, the eponymous real-life pirate whose treasure James and friends are presumably searching for, is not actually mentioned in the text of the comic beyond the title itself.

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