Modesty Blaise: Distance

In Review: Modesty Blaise – The Killing Distance

Modesty Blaise: Distance

By Peter O’Donnell (Script) & Enrique Badia Romero (Art)
Publisher: Titan Books
Out: Now

The Book: Continuing the only complete collection of Modesty Blaise adventures! The return of the ass-kicking femme fatale. Full of classic action and adventure and dripping with 60’s chic. In the first story we see the return of fan-favourite character Guido Biganzoli in “Guido the Jinx”. “The Killing Distance” is pure Cold War thriller material, while the legendary Wu Smith appears in “The Aristo”.

The Review: Titan Books ongoing collection of the Modesty Blaise newspaper strips, republishing the action adventure strip written by Peter O’Donnell is slowly reaching its conclusion with, post The Killing Distance, at most some six volumes left in the run. It’s been fascinating to see the strip develop over time and how different artists handle O’Donnell’s characters – the complex Modesty Blaise and best friend Willie Garvin.

Every Modesty Blaise fan has their favourite interpretation of course, be it Jim Holdaway, the man who drew the story from its inception in 1963 until his death in 1970, or those that followed him – Enrique Badia Romero (twice, the artist returning to the strip until it ended in 2001), John M. Burns (1978-1979), Patrick Wright (drawing just one and a half stories) and Neville Colvin. But throughout, no matter the artist, the engaging partnership between Modesty and Willie, often landing by chance in the most harrowing of adventures, remains the strip’s lasting accomplishment and reason for its continued appeal for fans.

The three strips in this strip, two offering return appearances by past characters, are enjoyable fare with “The Killing Distance”, presenting Modesty with a moral challenge in her efforts to protect her friend, Sir Gerald Tarrant, from assassination the best of them, in my view, although “The Aristo”, set on the high seas, with pirates out for blood, is also an entertaining yarn.

Romero largely delivers his Modesty Blaise with plenty of head shots, but he’s good with his establishing shots that set scenes and delivers some accomplished action sequences throughout, particularly on “The Aristo” which has a real Die Hard feel to it.

Unfortunately, this ‘complete’ collection is marred by three missing strips from “Guido the Jinx” – 8477, 8478, and 8479. Either Titan weren’t provided with the strips (I had a similar issue with a planned reprint of the Mirror’s Garth story “The Teenager” I was working on, which was missing one episode) or that they were missing from assets supplied was an editorial oversight; either way, it’s an annoying glitch in this collection’s reproduction, especially given where they fall in the story, as is, unfortunately, the quality of some of the scans from sources other than original art (it’s a shame there simply isn’t the budget for a retoucher on these books).

Rather than have you desperately search for a copy of Comic Revue #104, in which “Guido the Jinx” was last presented back in 1994, here, thanks to a kind Modesty Blaise fan, are the missing strips; print them off and stick them in your copy.

The missing "Guido the Jinx" strips from The Killing Distance collection. Modesty Blaise © 2015 Associated Newspapers/Solo Syndication
The missing “Guido the Jinx” strips from The Killing Distance collection. Modesty Blaise © 2015 Associated Newspapers/Solo Syndication

These glitches in the collection aside, The Killing Distance offers three well told, engaging and absorbing Modesty Blaise tales that will appeal to action adventure fans and the character’s many followers. It’s great to see Titan’s continued publication of the series.

Web Links

• The late Peter O’Donnell’s official website: Modesty Blaise, Ltd.; the Modesty Blaise Home Page features an exclusive interview with the writer as well as a strip check list

• Enrique Badia Romero 

• John M. Burns (Wikipedia)

Patrick Wright (Lambiek)

• Neville Colvin

• There’s much more about Modesty Blaise on The Complete Modesty Blaise Dossier, edited by Jim Pattison; and a bibliography of all published Modesty Blaise works (strips and novels) on the Modesty Blaise Book Covers site

If you’re on Facebook you may want to join the Modesty Blaise group

Modesty Blaise © 2014 Associated Newspaper/Solo Syndication

Thanks to various Modesty Blaise fans for information about the missing strips and sources

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John Freeman

The founder of downthetubes, John works as a comics editor, writer, as Creative Consultant on the Dan Dare audio adventures for B7 Media, and on promotional work for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival. Working in British comics publishing for over 30 years, his credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine, Star Trek Magazine and Babylon 5 Magazine. He also edited the comics anthology STRIP Magazine and edited several audio comics for ROK Comics. He has also edited several comic collections, including volumes of “Charley’s War and “Dan Dare”. He’s the writer of “Crucible”, a creator-owned project with 2000AD artist Smuzz, published on Tapastic; and “Death Duty” and “Skow Dogs” with Dave Hailwood for digital comic 100% Biodegradable.

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