Seeing ourselves through other’s eyes is always a salutary experience and our continental cousins in the comics biz are especially helpful in that respect as regards the core characteristics of being British.

The setup is deliciously simple: pompous, irascible Colonel Sir Harold Wilberforce Clifton, ex-RAF, former Metropolitan police and recently retired from MI5, has a great deal of difficulty dealing with being put out to pasture in rural Puddington. He thus takes every opportunity to get back in the saddle, occasionally assisting the Government or needy individuals as an amateur sleuth. He’s unduly hindered by being the only truly competent man in a world full of blithering idiots.

This time, however Bob De Groot strays somewhat from well-trodden humour paths and indulges in some frantic action and sinister suspense, bombastic whilst still resolutely going for comedy gold. For starters, the Gentleman Detective is notably absent as the tale opens in London at the secret Headquarters of MI-5 where veteran warhorse and ultra-capable spymaster Colonel Donald Spruce is having a little bit of a crisis. A battled-scarred survivor of simpler times, Spruce longs for one last field mission, but is instead swamped with petty admin nonsense. That all changes in an instant as the computer boffins in charge of Betty – latest in the line of “Thinkover” super-calculators – discover a little problem.

In the age of automation, Betty controls every aspect of physical eliminations for the agency. It is an infallible electronic assassination expediter. Information on a target is fed in and Betty commences a contract, contacting outside agents to do the dirty work and providing all the details they will need to complete the commission. No hostile has ever lasted more than a week when Betty is concerned: she provides efficiency, expediency, economy and utter deniability.

Except now the harassed technos are enduring a severe tongue-lashing from Spruce who has noticed that the latest print-out is retired agency star and his old chum Harold Wilberforce Clifton. As Spruce fumes and fulminates the abashed boffins try to explain that the process is irreversible. They can’t contact the contractors to cancel the hit. Clifton is as good as dead…

With no other choice the Colonel frantically phones the retired agent and gives him the bad news. Our hero, unwilling to bow out gracefully, immediately goes on the run, using all his cunning and years of tradecraft to stay one step ahead of his faceless hunters. His stalkers however are seasoned professionals too and luck more than guile is the only thing saving him from an increasingly spectacular succession of devastating ‘accidents’.

Thematically far darker than previous tales, 7 Days to Die is nevertheless stuffed with hilarious moments of farce and satire to balance some pretty spectacular action set-pieces delightfully delivered by artist Turk (Philippe Liégeois). Delightfully surreal, instantly accessible and doused with serous slapstick and deft, daft intrigue, this romp rattles right along offering readers a splendid treat and loads to think about.

Next up is De Groot from 27 years later in 2005’s Black Moon.