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James Bond Jr Online


Marvel Comics (UK) #6
by Dan Abnett

Featuring: James, IQ, Tracy, Gordo, Phoebe, Captain Plank.

Synopsis: The Warfield gang are in Venice, Italy, touring the canals on a boat to take in sights such as the Bell Tower of St Mario, and the Bridge of Sighs. However, they're shocked to see the aforementioned bell tower collapse and tumble into the canal. Later at the hotel, the gang are relieved that nobody was hurt, but IQ laments the loss of the 700-year-old bell tower. There's a report about its collapse on the local news, but the broadcast is interrupted by a shadowy figure, who issues an ultimatum to the people of Venice. The crook wants £2 billion, or else he will 'systematically sink every inch of this historic city', he says. Gordo and James agree SCUM is likely responsible, but shortly afterwards, IQ realises that he knows the specific perpetrator; he caught a snapshot of a gondolier in one of his photos near the bell tower earlier, and on closer inspection, the man in question is Captain Walker D. Plank. Realising he must be using the gondolier disguise to plant bombs under city landmarks, James and the gang split up to search for him. James talks to other gondoliers in the area, but they haven't seen Plank. Likewise, Tracy and Gordo have no luck; but when IQ and Phoebe show the photo of Plank to another gondolier, the man turns out to be Plank himself. Later, James reconvenes with Tracy and Gordo, and James uses the intercom on his watch to contact IQ, but gets no response. However, he then hears Plank talking to IQ and Phoebe through the intercom, saying his next bomb demonstration will be more effective if two British students are lost in the blast. We see that Plank has tied Phoebe and IQ to canal poles at his next target. Plank rows away in his gondola, and James confirms to IQ that he's heard everything via the watch. Meanwhile, Plank has steered the gondola away from the city into the lagoon, and prepares to use a remote device to detonate his next bomb. However, James, Tracy and Gordo arrive in a speedboat in the nick of time, ploughing straight through Plank's gondola which splits in two and sinks. Plank is left clinging onto his long gondolier's oar which is sticking out of the water. James demands the remote trigger from Plank, implying he'll rescue him if he hands it over. But when a defeated Plank gives James the remote, the gang just sets off for the shore to free IQ and Phoebe, leaving Plank stranded, clinging to the oar.

Review: This story marks the franchise's third trip to Venice, following the events of the TV episode Leonardo da Vinci's Vault, and the Marvel comic The Gilt Complex - and arguably, Plank is a crook better suited to the city's canals than either Cortex or Goldfinger, the respective lead villains in those adventures. On the other hand, there isn't a huge amount of sophistication to his plan, which essentially amounts to bombing famous landmarks; but it's fun to see him in gondolier garb, and the overall story is entertaining enough - even if IQ and Phoebe's peril is a bit contrived (see 'Lows'), and also immediately undermined, given that James has heard everything on the intercom within seconds and immediately rushes to the rescue.

There's a fun cultural reference by Plank to his intention to sing a barcarole (a traditional song sung by Venetian gondoliers), so pleased is he at the success of his plan thus far.
As James and friends speed away from him at the end, James tells Plank he's sure the Venice police will come and rescue him, if he sings loud enough.

A minor nitpick, but by this stage in proceedings it feels as if IQ and Phoebe would easily recognise the not-exactly-inconspicuous Plank from a distance before getting close enough to be captured by him, let alone be so oblivious as to show him a photo of himself first.

Gadgets & Gizmos:
Not much to remark upon here, other than that there's now an intercom system built into James's watch, which allows him to overhear what Plank is saying to IQ and Phoebe.

SCUM on the Surface:
Gordo suggests that SCUM is responsible for the threat to the city, and James agrees, before the specific perpetrator is revealed.

The Bell Tower of St Mario appears to be a fictional landmark, which is just as well given it ends up in pieces at the bottom of the canal - unlike the Bridge of Sighs, which is real, and survives. However, the bell tower may be loosely based on St Mark's Campanile.

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