Review by Frank Plowright
The obvious way into a story titled ‘The Girl from the Future’ isn’t a discussion about spheres of gold one foot in diameter. Don’t become too obsessed about them as the answer is a fair way through the strip, and by then you’ll be wondering about the girl, Emma, who makes a convincing case for being from the future. Times had changed considerably for the strip because when Enric Badia Romero first drew a topless woman it caused conniptions and censorship (see The Puppet Master), but the girl from the future revels in being naked, the style of her era she claims. Anything supernatural or beyond the bounds of science in Modesty Blaise is invariably revealed as more prosaic in nature, but Peter O’Donnell is a good enough writer to continually raise an element of doubt. Could this actually be the time he changes the ground rules and allows that the fantastic exists? Romero is either using some assistants not quite as skilled as he is, or another artist drew some of the early strips, as they lack his customary refinement.
O’Donnell sometimes began a story with a several pages of Modesty and Willie’s days running the Network, a criminal operation in Morocco, and that’s the case for ‘The Big Mole’, the opening sequence showing how Modesty saved the life of British lieutenant Michael Kerr. It’s a formality that he’ll appear again. Immediately after the flashback O’Donnell introduces in passing that a Cavaliers vs Roundheads historical re-enactment is due to take place, and regular readers will be able to enjoy the anticipation of the part it surely plays in the later plot. The title refers to a highly placed government official revealed as a spy, but abducted before he was fully questioned. The abduction seems to have gone wrong, yet MI5 have been ordered not to act. It festers with Modesty that a spy be allowed to slip out of the country so easily. What at first appears to be a very predictable story, almost bordering on cliché with regard to some characters, is marvellously turned away from expectation by O’Donnell
Treachery in the past and treachery in the present combine for the title story in which a blind woman is to use her intuitive dowsing abilities to locate a long lost treasure. She’s the lady in the dark due to her condition. It’s an interesting departure, and a way of keeping things fresh, because for most of the strip Modesty’s looking after an ailing friend while it’s Willie abroad in the thick of the adventure. The divining abilities also have a considerable part to play, treated not as some gimmick to be scorned.
From the very start Modesty Blaise has been a well created strip, and that’s the case until the end. There may be some minor fluctuations or artistic preference, but high standards prevail throughout and any one of these Titan reprint collections offers three good adventure strips at the very least. There’s no real continuity, but the original publication order can be followed by reading The Girl in the Iron Mask next.