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James Bond Jr Online


Episode #36
by Jeffrey Scott

Featuring: James, I.Q., Tracy, Gordo, Phoebe, Trevor, Mr Milbanks, Coach Mitchell, Maximillion Cortex, Leftbrain & Rightbrain.

Synopsis: At the Museum of Venice, Maximillion Cortex breaks through the lock on the doors and gains access. Using a reflective device to get past the light beams of the security system, he rushes into a gallery where a valuable painting is kept. As soon as Cortex touches it, however, the alarms sound and a guard appears. Cortex uses a hpynotic ring to take control of the guard, and orders him to attack his colleagues who come running to provide backup. In the commotion, Cortex manages to slip out of the building with the painting. At Warfield, I.Q. makes an audacious escape attempt from school grounds - by wearing a Mr Milbanks mask! It transpires I.Q. is off to Venice as well, to see the very painting Cortex stole! It's a newly-discovered work by Leonardo da Vinci.

I.Q. leaves a recorded message for James explaining where he's gone, saying he'll be back tomorrow, and has bequeathed some gadgets just in case. When Trevor walks in to gloat at a newspaper report he's just read saying the da Vinci painting has been stolen, some pillows and a tape recorder I.Q. has rigged up under his duvet with a snuffly-sounding recording of him is enough to convince Trevor he's ill under the blanket and highly contagious. But when the gang read the report in the paper and hear that the museum guards began shooting at each other as the painting was stolen, they realise that I.Q. could be wandering into a dangerous situation. They resolve to go to Venice and find him. The gang sneak down a drain outlet pipe during Coach Mitchell's swimming lesson, and escape onto the beach.

Cortex, meanwhile, has retreated to his underground lair with the painting, where he orders Leftbrain and Rightbrain to cut it out of the frame and use an x-ray scanner to examine what's under the paint. Cortex's research has led him to believe that da Vinci invented and built some 'incredible weapons', but was 'afraid they'd be used for war'. To prevent this, Cortex believes da Vinci hid them in a secret vault somewhere beneath Venice. Sure enough, the crooks' x-ray scanner shows a coded map beneath the painting - which should lead to the weapons. Meanwhile, I.Q. arrives at the Museum to find out that the painting has been stolen, so heads to see the sights instead. James and the others soon arrive, and run into a tearful young woman called Sophia, who was responsible for keeping the painting safe and is now in danger of losing her job. James promises to help her retrieve it.

Meanwhile, I.Q. has wandered into the premises of the Venice Oil Paint company - quickly followed by Left and Rightbrain, who've been sent by Cortex to find the first clue from the coded map. As I.Q. snaps a photo of a stained glass window said to be designed by da Vinci himself, he's attacked by Left and Rightbrain. James and the others show up, and a fight ensues during which Cortex hypnotises the owner of the company, ordering him to start mixing up the paint. His goons then tie up James and the others and place them on a conveyor belt, leading straight for the paint mixer. As the crooks leave with the stained glass window, Cortex starts up the belt and machine. James cuts the ropes with his watch torch and frees the others, but ends up in the mixer himself. Luckily, I.Q.'s electromagnetic heels save the day, and he escapes unharmed.

I.Q. discerns from the photograph of the window, and Cortex from the real article, that the next clue is written backwards in the glass: 'The library holds the key to knowledge'. Both parties quickly head for the Library of St Copela - the next location on the map, which Sophia realises she has a copy of, since all the paintings at the museum are x-rayed as routine. I.Q. thinks the clue refers to the book, The Key to Knowledge, which da Vinci studied. But on reaching the library, James and Sophia that the truth is far more literal than that - they actually find a real key, stuck to a wall at the back of a bookshelf. Turning it, the gang uncover a secret passage, and follow it. But the pair are unaware that Cortex and his stooges were already at the library, and have followed them down the passage - and just as they reach the door to da Vinci's vault, Cortex ambushes them, using his hypnosis ring to paralyse James before throwing the pair into a tomb and sealing them in.

Meanwhile, back at Warfield, Trevor is convinced I.Q.'s faking his illness after overhearing a bird landing on his bed and triggering the tape recorder message, and creeps into his room in the middle of the night to prove it. As the tape recorder spews forth its 'contagious' line on a loop, the tape gets mangled and Trevor realises he's been deceived. He runs off to tell Mr Milbanks that I.Q. has left school grounds. Back in Venice, I.Q., Tracy, Gordo and Phoebe catch up at the library, and see footprints leading into the bookshelf, realising it's a secret passage. James and Sophia escape using a sword they find to cut a hole in the ancient limestone walls, and rendezvous with the others in the vault - just after Cortex has found what he's been searching for. It's a huge, ancient submarine-warship that da Vinci built, armed with powerful laser-like weapons. The crooks drive the craft through an underwater exit which takes them onto the canals, in order to wreak havoc with their new toy. But Sophia has rushed inside the ship to stop them - and James clings on behind using I.Q.'s corded harpoon, gaining access through a hatch in the base of the ship.

Sophia succeeds in grabbing the painting from under Cortex's nose, and James floors Leftbrain and Rightbrain - but Cortex soon has them at gunpoint and forces them into the torpedo tube. James and Sophia oblige, but as they do, James knocks the gun from Cortex's hand and flips a switch, causing the engines of the craft to begin overheating. As James and Sophia swim to safety, da Vinci's sub explodes into a thousand pieces. Seeing the ship explode in the distance, James's friends are convinced he's gone down with it - but he soon rows past in a gondola with Sophia, and Tracy quickly forgets her concern! Back at Warfield, Trevor drags Milbanks to James and I.Q.'s room to reveal that they've gone - but they arrive back in time, and Milbanks finds them both tucked up in bed - I.Q. faking a cold very convincingly! Trevor gets detention - again.

Review: It would be remiss of us not to acknowledge some of the daftness that surrounds this episode - in particular the plot. Leonardo da Vinci's newly-discovered pastime of submarine manufacture is neither credible in theory nor convincing in its realisation. Nor is it entirely clear in what sense da Vinci's submarine contraption is such an amazingly powerful weapon, what Cortex intends to do with it, how exactly Cortex's hypnosis ring is supposed to work, and why the crook's eyes seem to light up a brilliant neon white at the beginning when he steals the painting from the museum. Does he have some kind of special power that works in conjunction with the ring, that we ought to know about? And if so why does he not make use of it in his other episode, Lamp of Darkness? Despite all these niggles, there's plenty good to be said about da Vinci's Vault. Cortex himself remains an effective villain, with a particularly sadistic streak: there's a lot of allusion to blood in the form of the red paint he attempts to drown James and company in at the factory, while his decision to lock James and Sophia in the airless tomb and leave them to suffocate is equally unpleasant. In that context our heroes come across a little better than usual, with the possible exception of James himself, who's even more glib than usual throughout. Lastly, there are numerous laughs to be had (see 'Highs'), and Trevor's scenes are more enjoyable than usual. Overall, this is a generally average affair, with a smattering of above-average high points.

Highs: There's a fair bit of comedy value in this episode, with the 'contagious' tape recording gag a particular pleasure. Also amusing is I.Q.'s Mr Milbanks mask, which is surely the most audacious method yet seen of escaping from the Warfield grounds. Except perhaps for...

Lows: James and the others' own method of escaping the grounds, which involves sliding down the drain outlet during Coach Mitchell's swimming lesson - before putting their clothes back on over the top. Wouldn't want to spend the day sat next to them on a plane, would you? 

Lines to Remember: An unusually self-aware Trevor, when he receives no response to his taunts from I.Q.: 'Did you hear one nasty word I said?'

James, ignoring Phoebe's protests as he wanders away with his arm around Sophia: 'Eh, this is Italy, the land of amore!' Phoebe, to Gordo: 'If there's one thing James doesn't need, it's one amore girlfriend.'

Gadgets & Gizmos: A pocket flashlight that fires a small, retractable corded harpoon is on the agenda today, as is a pair of trainers whose soles become electromagnetised when the heels are clicked together.

S.C.U.M. on the Surface:
As with Cortex's earlier episode, S.C.U.M. seems to go without mention here.

The second section of the James Bond Jr Super Nintendo game is loosely based on this episode: it features Cortex, in Venice, looking for da Vinci's secret weapon.

James and I.Q. would return to Venice in the comic story The Gilt Complex.

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