Review by Norman Boyd
Authors: Bob Keston, James Stagg
Artist: Ron Turner
Publisher: Book Palace Books, February 2021
Number of pages: 272
Format: Flexi Cover; Black & White illustrations
Size: 6″ x 8″ (165mm x 215mm)
If you enjoyed the earlier Book Palace reprint of John Steel’s previous adventures (reviewed here) or those from Rebellion, you’ll enjoy the war-time exploits of our favourite spy-agent in John Steel: Special Agent Word War II. We are presented with four stories in this one volume, but here we have a glorious focus on Ron Turner‘s black and white artwork.
Turner, known mostly for his colour work on “The Daleks” in TV Century 21 and various Gerry Anderson characters (mainly in Annuals) also drew “Space Ace”, “Rick Random” adventures for Super Detective Library in the 1950s. (His artwork for various ‘mushroom publishers’ are highlighted very well by Phil Harbottle in his series of recent videos). Here, the artwork shines out and shows what a tremendous talent Turner was.
The four stories follow John Steel as he assists the French Resistance, a Dutch spy whose excellent work turns out to be particularly interesting as it is a woman!
In the third story, “Gateway to Glory“, we learn about Steel’s adventures in Italy behind enemy lines, where he is given the task of rescuing Field Marshall Briancchi from the Nazis, who have him in a castle in the Northern part of Italy. First he has to find a traitor, recruit various trustworthy Italians and fly Brianncchi out of his hideaway. The story, written by James Stagg, entertains and draws the reader along with Steel in his adventure.
Next we have “Operation Tina” – by Bob Keston, where the military have information of the ‘buzz bombs’ launch locations provided by a Dutch agent called “Tina”. Steel hears of her attacks on the Nazis and comes to respect this woman he has not yet met. His mission is to rescue her from a Gestapo HQ where she is being held. Several action sequences and explosions later, Steel is on his way, having successfully rescued “Tina” and obtained the information he needed.
“The Hidden War” tells the tale of how the French Resistance will be essential in disrupting the Nazi war effort when the invasion of Europe starts. However it appears there are traitors infiltrating the Resistance and who better to retrieve a file of names than John Steel.
Unfortunately for him, the file is naturally enough, in a Nazi Records Office in Paris, and well guarded. Steel impersonates a Nazi Officer – bandaging his face – and has to shoot his way out. He successfully manages to meet up with a true Resistance fighter who transports Steel with said file across the channel, foiling a German patrol boat.
The last story in this book, “The Shadow: School For Spies“, reprinted from the last issue of Super Detective Library, which is a shame as the character is quite interesting. This is not John Steel but The Shadow, a mysterious man, who, after being rescued from a column of lorries strafed by German aircraft, is nursed back to health by a farmer and his wife. He then saves the farmer’s life – but goes on to wreak revenge when he finds that both the farmer and his wife have been killed by a German posing as an RAF pilot.
The theme of Second World War and Ron Turner’s art makes this a great buy. Turner’s art is presented very clearly – well done to Book Palace for preserving our recent comic past.