The Black Ruby Caper

Publisher: Daily Express
Released: 19th February 1975 to
15th July 1975
Serial: #2781 to #2897
Artist: Yaroslav Horak
Writer: Jim Lawrence

Data Stream
Villains: Herr Rubin (AKA Mr Ruby), Kurt Schall, Max / Gunter, Isle Kreuzner, Mboto
Bond Girls: Damara Carver, Roanne Dreux, Suzi Kew
Allies: Jack Nguvu, M, Moneypenny, Bill Tanner, Roscoe Carver
Locations: Zurich, Switzerland; Montmartre, Paris, France; London, UK; Accra, Ghana

Above: Bond is back to being a cold hearted bastard as he uses Roanne Dreux for his own gain, showing none of the sympathy he had for those caught up in the previous adventure The Phoenix Project.

Herr Rubin, better known as Mr Ruby, is in James Bond's cross-hairs. Fellow MI6 agent Suzi Kew is on hand to assist, and 007 ruffles Ruby's feathers by: breaking in to his Swiss chalet, shooting him with an anaesthetic dart, photographing his cipher book, stealing his jewellery, and framing his girlfriend Roanne Dreux - causing Ruby to suspect she is in league with him. Bond then sets up a fake safe house in Paris, where Suzi Kew acts as Bond's jilted lover and provokes Ruby in to sending his men after them with photos of 007 and Roanne in a compromising position. Ruby's goons try to kill Roanne, but the MI6 team whisk her away just in time. It was all a setup to convince Ruby that she was double-crossing him all along, and Bond gives her the stolen jewellery and ticket to Rio De Janeiro as compensation for her status as a wanted woman.

Above: The opening panel of "The Black Ruby Caper"

The action then switches to Ghana in Africa where Ruby is supervising the building of a statue that will conceal a bomb. The sculptor Roscoe Carver was once wanted by the FBI due to his connections with a bank robbery and jailbreak staged by the Black Brotherhood of Freedom, but Ruby arranged for him to flee the US and away from trouble. Ruby is now calling in his payment, although Roscoe is unaware of the end game. Carver's daughter and Harlem model Damara is anxious to know of her father's whereabouts, and joins up with 007 to track him down via Kurt Schall, the Rubaiyat operative who smuggled him out. With the help of Damara and local MI6 agent Jack Nguvu, Bond infiltrates the cover outfit (The Omar Trading Company) and discovers Operation Black Storm - a supposed SMERSH plan to kill the President of the Republic of Bowanda via an exploding statue, whilst framing the CIA and Ghana in an assassination plot. Bond creates a trail to the foundry where the bronze statue is being created, which Ruby follows, and dispatches the villain by pouring molten metal over him.

Above: Damara knows how to use her sexuality to get what she wants.

Source To Strip
Writer Jim Lawrence over complicates this tale, which uses too many twists and turns with little payoff. Although each act is neat and well thought out, when combined the bigger story fails to convey a logical plot. The first half of the adventure, which largely revolves around Bond convincing the villain that his girlfriend has been tipping him off for some time, is too convoluted and could have been concluded after the initial chalet raid. In the previous story, The Phoenix Project, Bond is openly against using blackmail as a means to and end, but in this adventure he shows no compunction when using it against Ruby's girlfriend. Perhaps he deems it OK when the plan is his own, and not M's?

The adventure really gets underway once Damara Carver appears and they are on the track of her father. Lawrence makes Bond reference a SMERSH plot, but this is never confirmed and it is not made clear who Ruby was ultimately working for. Bond also makes several assumptions throughout the story which prove incorrect. On the positive side, Lawrence brings back MI6 agent Suzi Kew as a foil for Bond to good effect in this story, following her debut in Beware Of Butterflies. The lead Bond girl Damara Carver uses her sexuality in a powerful way, and is a far stronger character compared to facsimile Rosie Carver who appeared in the film Live And Let Die a couple of years previous to publication. Lawrence also creates a YASO (Yet Another Spy Organisation) in the shape of the Rubaiyat, which we can only assume is dissolved at the end of this adventure. In a nice nod to Bond's backstory, Lawrence makes reference to his Scottish heritage in the third strip of the story.

Above: One of the better action scenes by artist Yaroslav Horak as Bond takes out Schall

Yaroslav Horak's artwork is hit and miss in this adventure. The backdrops for the three main locations are stunning and well researched, especially the African settings and local characters. But unusually for Horak, his action sequences oscillate between iconic brilliance (Bond vaulting on his flip stick) to lethargic and bland (any of the shootouts). His depiction of the main players is also patchy, with the stunning Damara easily outshining the bland (but still beautiful) Roanne, and the main villain Ruby looking slightly unreal. Fans of Horak will not be disappointed by one aspect though, as both the main girls are either topless or naked for the most part.

Best Line
Damara Carver: "Call it a cultural exchange programme! Later on at the hotel, we can lay out all the specifics in black and white!"

Q-Branch has developed a vaulting pole which conveniently folds down into 'flipstick' of telescopic sections, and also acts as a spring gun that fires anaesthetic darts. The name of Ruby's bodyguard changes from Max to Gunter at the start of the story. The opening panel of the story goes back to the two cell format following the experiment with a title card in the previous story.

MI6 Rating


Available Now!

Publisher: Titan Books
Released: 23rd February 2007
Titles Included: "The Phoenix Project", " The Black Ruby Caper", " Till Death Do Us Apart", " The Torch-Time Affair"

"The Phoenix Project" by Titan Books

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