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James Bond Jr Online


Marvel Comics (UK) #1
by Dan Abnett

Featuring: James, IQ, Coach Mitchell, Dr Derange.

Synopsis: Students from Warfield Academy are in Snowdonia, Wales, for a week's holiday. James and IQ ask Coach Mitchell if they can go to try out IQ's new kayak, and he agrees, provided they return by four, or if the weather changes. While out in the kayak, the water begins to get choppy, and they are conronted by a large red tank-like contraption with insect-like legs which allow it to walk through water. This is the Red Dragon, and inside it, Dr Derange tells SCUM agents how he plans to unleash the full fury of its microwave cannon on the world, just as soon as testing is complete. The first target will be the oil terminal at Milford Haven; he plans to destroy the tankers there and spill billions of pounds' worth of superheated oil into the sea, forcing the government to bow to his demands. One of the SCUM agents spots James and IQ in their kayak on a telescreen, and Derange sends out two agents on jet-bikes to pursue the kayak. IQ instructs James to press the red switch on the kayak console, which activates the jet-foils and thruster pack, allowing the kayak to speed away. The SCUM agents launch missiles at the kayak, and James retracts the jet-foils and overturns the kayak temporarily, so that the missiles speed over them. Derange decides to go after the boys with the Red Dragon itself, saying it's a perfect test of its capabilities. James asks IQ for the distress flare launcher, then replaces the flare with a foil survival blanket. The foil reflects the microwave rays back at the Red Dragon as it fires, destroying it completely. James and IQ row back to the campsite to report what's happened, noting that it's nearly four o'clock.

Review: A good solid start to the Marvel UK miniseries, which makes the most of its Snowdonian setting and manages to cram an impressive amount of action into its few pages. The exposition provided around Derange's plan - to attack the Milford Haven oil terminal, causing a massive oil spill into the sea - adds another interesting local touch to the Welsh setting, and could easily have gone on to form the basis of a full TV episode. Dr Derange is particularly sinister here, possibly because there's little space for advancing his humorous side - or that of absent sidekick Skullcap.

Highs: With England, Scotland and Ireland all having featured in episodes of the TV series, it feels appropriate that Wales finally makes an appearance here, with a reference to the nation's flag serving as both the story's name and that of Derange's weapon - and Snowdonia in particular makes for a dramatic backdrop.

Lows: It's really more a limitation of the five-page format than the story itself, but in most of these mini-stories the resolution feels perfunctory and far too easy. This one is no exception, with Red Dragon immediately destroyed the moment its rays hit metal - a flaw that doesn't seem conducive to Derange's wider plan of turning it on oil tankers.

Gadgets & Gizmos: IQ has equipped his new kayak with jet-foils and a thruster pack, operated via switches on a console towards the front. Meanwhile, Dr Derange's Red Dragon amphibious tank boasts a microwave cannon with which the crook plans to wreak havoc on the world (which looks not unlike the cannon by Goldfinger in Earthcracker to crack open mountains, though this is said to be ultrasonic rather than microwave technology). Red Dragon can also dispatch miniature water-going jet-bikes with their own missile systems to stave off intruders.

SCUM on the Surface: Yes. Though James originally wonders whether Red Dragon is a government craft, it quickly proves to be a SCUM contraption and is staffed with standard-issue-blue-uniformed SCUM personnel.

Loco Parenthesis:
Despite his cursory warnings at the start, Coach Mitchell evidently feels few qualms about letting teenagers kayak down river rapids unsupervised.

Notes: For these short stories, a narrower cast list is often established; and this is particularly in evidence here,  given none of James's friends save IQ are featured (though it's possible/likely that some of them are in the other tents we can see in the establishing frame).

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