Thursday, 2 October 2014

Modesty Blaise: The First Novel

I used to say that the best team in comics was Bruce Wayne and Alfred Pennyworth but Modesty Blaise and Willie Garvin seem to be as good in a different way, although I have so far read about them only in the first novel.

In this novel, the man whom Gabriel needs for a crucial job breaks his leg so Gabriel gets Willie to do the job. I expected to be told that Modesty and Willie had caused the broken leg. Or were they counting on Gabriel to co-opt them for the disposal of the stolen jewels in any case?

The underwater activity was reminiscent of Fleming's Thunderball and Modesty watching the theft as Gabriel's prisoner was reminiscent of the film, You Only Live Twice. When Hagan asks why Modesty has returned to such dangerous work, Willie replies:

"'It's one way of knowing you are alive...'"
-Peter O'Donnell, Modesty Blaise (London, 2014), p. 122.

That is reminiscent of James Bond's imperfect haiku:

"You only live twice,
"Once when you are born
"And once when you look death in the face."

Willie's wisdom is also displayed in this passage:

"Willie Garvin's long-held view was that in these soft and secure days life was held a lot too sacred, and that the high importance attached to it was no part of natural law. In the natural order of things, life had always been cheap. You came and you went and it didn't much matter. Only cruelty disturbed him." (p. 213)

That last sentence matters. Our morality is not part of the natural order but it remains our morality.

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