The Phoenix Project

Publisher: Daily Express
Released: 23rd September 1974 to
18th February 1975
Serial: #2656 to #2780
Artist: Yaroslav Horak
Writer: Jim Lawrence

Data Stream
Villains: Kazim, Nelson Gregg (AKA George Ness), Mirza, Achmet, Selim
Bond Girls: Agent Hafford
Allies: Margo Arden, Tom Thorp, Dr Hendrix Baar, Ogle, Jack Donner, Jenny Starbuck
Locations: H.M. Defence Research Laboratories, UK; London, UK; Yesilkoy Airport, Istanbul, Turkey; Bahcekoy, Belgrade Forest, Turkey

Above: Dr Baar has a nasty surprise in store when a saboteur decides he has been peddling his Phoenix Suit technology to too many potential buyers (note: the doctor's name is misspelled 'Barr" in this cell, conflicting with all other instances where 'Baar' is used).

A woman in charge of security clearances for a new defence technology is on holiday in Istanbul when she is unwittingly hypnotized into later adding a rogue party to the list. The recurring nightmares of a ghostly figure bursting in to flames haunt her every night. Later, when the Phoenix - a new suit of armour made from bonded boron filaments that protects the wearer against fire, bullets and explosions - is demonstrated by its inventor Dr Hendrix Baar, things go horribly wrong. The suit has been sabotaged and the doctor is killed. The rogue spectator 'George Ness' then makes his escape, killing Margo Arden and destroying the evidence.

Above: The opening panel of "The Phoenix Project"

The trail is picked up by James Bond in London where he attempts to interrogate Margo's holiday tour guide by blackmailing him about his past, but he is killed before he can talk by the same mysterious spy. With the last known lead dead, Bond travels to Istanbul and teams up with female Agent Hafford to pursue Kazim - a known arms dealer who Dr Baar is suspected of meeting before offering the Phoenix Suit to the British. Bond coerces his way into Kazim's inner circle by taking out their (coincidental) attacker Jack 'Tex' Donner, and is ordered to take care of the American couple who have been annoying Kazim.

The American woman is Tex's fiancee Jenny Starbuck, who is on a quest to get Kazim to admit to framing her father Dr Rance Starbuck for the theft of a space tracking device from the Houston Space Centre. Kazim amuses her by informing her he sold it on to the Russians, knowing full well he will have Jenny killed before she can tell her story. Bond is eventually exposed as a double-agent by Kazim's henchmen and makes good his escape from the burning villa by using a fully-working Phoenix suit which Kazim was hoping to sell after monopolizing the market.

Above: Jenny Starbuck spends most of the adventure stripped to her undies - not that Tex or Bond mind, of course.

Source To Strip
Jim Lawrence creates yet another sci-fi MacGuffin device for James Bond to chase after, but this time around the technology is reasonably well grounded. Unlike previous stories by Lawrence where early plot elements fade out, the Phoenix Suit is crucial to the end of the adventure.

There is a small echo of Ian Fleming's experiment with "The Spy Who Loved Me" as Lawrence puts the first third of the adventure from the perspective of Margo - with James Bond entering the story later. The time is well spent and Lawrence places plot strands which are tied together neatly at the story's conclusion. Lawrence also gives Bond so old-fashioned spying to do, even planting a bug at one point.

Some of Bond's uncharacteristic American-isms have been toned down, and he is back to speaking the way a British agent should - for the most part. M is also back to his old self, coldly ordering Bond to a slimy blackmail job. Unusually, there is not a strong female character in this adventure, and MI6 agent Hafford really serves only for Bond's titillation at the end of the adventure.

Artist Yaroslav Horak is back on form with The Phoenix Project, delivering his imitable blend of unusual perspectives, strong characterizations and punchy action sequences. The strips feature some iconic cells which are some of Horak's best work from the latter adventures, particularly the fight scene with Tex. His depiction of Nelson Gregg as a wily, scarred British gun-for-hire is very much the antithesis of Bond and perfectly captures his character from his first appearance onwards. Horak also shows restraint with the sci-fi elements of the suit, giving it a reasonably realistic appearance. For the first time in the series, Horak uses the opening strip as an abstract 'cinematic' teaser sequence, setting the reader up for the adventure to come.

Above: Artist Yaroslav Horak at his best - Bond disarms Tex

Best Line
Bond: "If I understand you, sir - you're asking me to squeeze this wretched bloke, Ogle - over a dirty little episode in his past"
M: "Not 'asking' you, 007 - telling you! So spare me your sentimental drivel!"

Bond shows he has some pidgin Turkish, and can recognise the American couple are from Texas from 'that Felix Leiter twang'. It takes over a month's worth of daily strips to set the story up for Bond's appearance, and Bond has to wait until the penultimate strip of the adventure before he gets lucky. This is the first adventure to use a teaser strip at the beginning of the story. The full compliment of MI6 staffers are present: M, Moneypenny and Bill Tanner.

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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