Don McGregor and Gary Caldwell
Dark Horse Comics 1995
Cover painting by Christopher Moeller
Here we are, about to launch into the final book in The Quasimodo Gambit saga. So far, Bond has been in numerous fist fights and guns battles. He has been knocked out once. Has had to escape from a burning cane field and a whole slither of snakes. Then he had his mouth forced open and leeches placed under his tongue, which burrowed into the soft fleshy membranes beneath. Sure, Bond has survived much more than this, but he is a little worse for wear as we move forward. As this is the last book in a series of three, this micro review may contain spoilers. Naturally I won’t reveal the ending, but as this is a Bond story, it’s not hard to connect the dots from the various scraps of information I give you. But if you are willing to proceed, then read on.
When we last left James Bond, he had been tortured by Maximillian ‘Quasimodo’ Steel in Georgia. So he is a little slow to get back to where the action is. In New York City however, Nebula Valentine and Felix Leiter are on the job and are following Reverend Elias Hazelwood. Little do they realise that they too have picked up a tail, in the hunchbacked form of Maximillian ‘Quasimodo’ Steel. Nebula and Felix are led into a trap where they are surrounded by Quasimodo and his men. Both are given a good beating and left battered and bleeding on the street. Nebula requires hospitalisation.
Bond finally makes in to New York from the Georgia Swamps and is dismayed at the damage that Quasimodo has done to the beautiful young Nebula Valentine. This attack only strengthens Bond’s resolve to bring down Hazelwood’s whole organisation and to settle his own personal vendetta with Quasimodo.
In Hazelwood’s mind New York stands for everything that has become godless in the world. He intends to send out a message denouncing the Satan’s existence in the modern world. To do this, he has chosen to destroy a skyscraper – 666 Fifth Avenue, near Rockefeller Centre. Hazelwood is convinced he is on the side of the angels and this attack is the first in his war against the devil.
Quasimodo and Ernest ‘Light Touch’ Force are Hazelwood’s foot soldiers who will carry out this daring deed. They were both mercenaries once and know how to handle and use high explosives. They go to work planting their explosives in the ceiling of the Hackensack Novelty Company which has its offices of the fifteenth floor of the Three Sixes Building.
Teamed with Felix Leiter, who has made a quick recovery after the beating me took earlier in the day, James Bond has one lead left – a girl named Gretchen Blair has been linked to Elias Hazelwood, and she works for the Hackensack Novelty Company. Putting the pieces together – threats to destroy the beast – large amount of high explosives – plans of a New York skyscraper – a known accomplice who works in a building designated ‘666’ – Bond surmises that Hazelwood and his cronies intend to blow up the Three Sixes Building. He gets Felix to pilot a chopper up to the building so he can check inside with night vision goggles. Inside he sees Quasimodo and other Disciples Of The Heavenly Way transferring the explosives into the ceiling. Not one to wait around, Bond swings from the chopper and crashes through the window surprising the perpetrators inside.
And that’s where I’ll leave the synopsis dear reader. Naturally Bond has his hands full taking on a skyscraper full of terrorists.
The notes at the back of the book reveals an interesting aspect about the production of The Quasimodo Gambit.
’…The Quasimodo Gambit was essentially written in late 1989 and early 1990, and that storyline was not inspired by the frightening bombing of the World trade Centre, nor the violent confrontation between law enforcement officials and members of an obscure religious sect in Waco, Texas.’
It makes sense that the story was written in late 1989. Thinking back to 1988, that was the year that Die Hard was released at the cinemas, with Bruce Willis singularly taking on a skyscraper full of terrorists at Christmas time. This final section of The Quasimodo Gambit is also set around Christmas time, with the giant Christmas trees in Rockefeller Centre providing a backdrop for some of the action. There are other similarities to Die Hard, the most obvious of which you can see on the front cover image at the top, is some scrounging around in elevator shafts.
All in all, The Quasimodo Gambit is a very enjoyable read. It has many flaws though, like silly character names, and a few small pacing issues – like Quasimodo makes it to New York to beat up on Felix and Nebula, long before Bond gets there, even though Bond has the aid of the US Coast Guard and all of Felix’s connections. And Felix’s rapid recovery after having his lights kicked out by Quasimodo is a bit far fetched – the guy is pretty amazing, even though he has been beaten up he can still hold a chopper steady with his steel claw (he lost his hand to sharks in Live And Let Die) while battling fierce wind drafts swirling up between the skyscrapers. Ah, but this is Bond! We’ve all seen and read more ridiculous actions scenes than that, so it’s easy to forgive.
The Quasimodo Gambit, I suggested that James Bond is a perfect character for a series of comic book adventures – as long as they were done right. I’ve got to say, that Dark Horse got most of it right. I am still not convinced with Gary Caldwell’s illustration technique which I believe is a little too stiff – for Bond anyway. Bond should be fluid. He should move like a cat. But the story is certainly acceptable and I thought the torture scene was great. It must be difficult to come up with new beasties for Bond to contend with – cinematically we’ve had Spiders, Snakes, Piranhas, Sharks, Tigers, Scorpions and Rats. In books we’ve had centipedes, killer ants, eels, mosquitos and the list goes on. The Quasimodo Gambit’s creepy crawly sequence works.
Graphic Novels and comics aren’t for everyone, but if you’re interested in alternative Bond stories, then The Quasimodo Gambit is acceptable fair. If you can track down copies, they are worth the read.