Modesty Blaise–Green Cobra by Titan publishers….

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Modesty Blaise: Green Cobra by Titan Publishers collects three stories: Green cobra, Eve and Adam and Brethren of Blaise, which are story numbers 42,43 and 44 respectively of the total of 92 stories of Modesty.

Modesty Blaise strip has had several artists over the course of its decades, the most famous of them being Jim Holdaway, Romero and Neville Colvin. This volume collects the works of two much lesser known (for modesty fans) artists, John Burns and Pat Wright. As explained in the foreword, after Romero left, these artists were employed one after the other and neither lasted long and to this day, no one knows why. However different their styles might have been, these two had one thing in common, they were booted even before they got well adjusted to the strip. While John Burns illustrated two and a half stories, Pat Wright wasn’t even around that long. Having had read Modesty stories which had been illustrated by either Holdaway or Romero, this volume was quite interesting to me. The fact that the stories weren’t as bad as the “The girl in the Iron mask” volume was helpful too.
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The first story in the volume, Green Cobra is drawn by John Burns and it is about a private espionage group (Salamander Four) that abducts British Secret Service Chief Sir Tarrant’s assistant Fraser and tries to turn him into a double agent. When Tarrant comes to know of the abduction, well after a month, he asks Modesty and Willie to save their mutual friend and they agree. Having identified the group, Modesty and Willie pursue and abduct one of its chief executives which only leads them into a con. The rest of the story is about them escaping the con and freeing Fraser. The story’s main antagonist is a woman, Pandora, a lethal fighter who is so spitefully jealous of Modesty’s fame, she wants to kill Modesty so that the world would notice her. Although Pandora is shown to be much faster, stronger and better in combat than Modesty, she never quite develops into a character at all. But the pace of the story is good enough for you to not notice any of that. The story picks up right from the beginning with Fraser being interrogated till its explosive end. The style of John Burns needed some getting used to, but only I was able to, I could notice it resembling Holdaway’s style to some extent.
Burn’s style gets better as the story goes on and I noticed that it was much better in the following “Eve and Adam”, in which Modesty and Garvin are tricked by a kooky billionaire, who is convinced that the world is gonna end, decides to make Modesty and Garvin to be the new Eve and Adam by placing them in an oasis in the middle of an African desert. Needless to say, Modesty and Garvin soon find friends and foes in the middle of the desert while trying to figure out getting out of the desert without  getting killed. The story has an interesting concept to it, considering the eccentric relationship of Willie and Modesty. They highly respect each other, love each other, rely on each other and would risk their lives for each other. But it never gets physical or romantic. Most of the times, it is shown to be a safe measure to not muddle the respectful relationship they have. The story would have been much more interesting if it had explored the psychology of this aspect more, but it doesn’t go into it more than a page which is immediately followed by trouble. The story then becomes a standard Modesty fare albeit being entertaining. This is also the story where John Burns gets fired midway and is replaced by Pat Wright and so, the story has the illustrations of the both and the transition isn’t smooth at all. They have very distinguishing styles and it might even be quite jarring when the sudden transition takes place. But just like Burns, you get used to the style of Wright and one thing I noticed about his style is that it does not resemble any style of the other Modesty artists and had a slight resemblance to William Vance’s XIII. As I got used to it, I found myself liking it more than Burns' style, especially his close-up shots.
As an aside, I noticed a peculiar thing about the illustrations of John Burns. In most of the illustrations of the other artists, even with the presence of a considerable amount of nude scenes, it is never really nude. Burns is not reluctant in showing nipple and “Eve and Adam” gives him some opportunity to do so too. This could have been a factor in him getting fired, especially considering that it was a daily strip in a British newspaper.
The last story in the volume is “Brethren of Blaise”, illustrated by Pat Wright. Just like Burns, I felt that Wright’s style was better in this story than it was in his previous one. The illustrations are more defined and the characters have a distinct look that was not just unique but also beautiful. Modesty and Willie find themselves in a small village to celebrate Christmas and come across a group calling themselves “The Brethren of Blaise” trying to revive Merlin (Blaise is Merlin’s tutor). When Willie is attacked, the couple sense something beneath the surface going on. Add in an old acquaintance under trouble and you can easily guess what Modesty and Willie ends up doing. “Brethren of Blaise” is the most Modesty-est story of the lot. It has every hallmarks of an intriguing and entertaining Modesty story even if it is predictable. All in all, this volume was much better than the “Girl with the iron mask” volume (maybe because all the stories in it were from the later run of Modesty) and can be quite entertaining if you are accustomed to Modesty stories.
Rating: 4/5.

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A side by side comparison of Pat Wright and John Burns (respectively) as shown in the foreword of this volume. This strip marks the immediate switch of the artists. The right one was discarded and Pat Wright took on from there. It is to be noted that this isn’t a particularly flattering show of either artists’ talents. Wright gets much better in “Brethren of Blaise” and Burns has done better in the same story.

Disclaimer: All the images are taken from the net.

Comments

  1. http://www.amazon.com/Modesty-Blaise-Green-Graphic-Novels/dp/184576420X/ref=cm_lmf_tit_14

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    1. I have a few more Modesty volumes at hand and might update of them if I'm in the mood.

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