The Girl in the Iron Mask, by Peter O’Donnell and Enric Badia Romero ISBN 9780857686947
Five out of five stars
Modesty Blaise was the original powerful, fictional female personality. Tough as titanium, she had a massive soft spot for those that were prey for other powerful and ruthless figures. With her partner Willie Garvin, Modesty engages in three adventures against the most powerful foes in the world. In the stories, we also learn a bit more about “The Network,” Modesty’s former criminal organization and how she takes care of those who served her well and at a cost.
In the first story, a doctor has set up a small hospital in rural Asia and they struggle for funds. A criminal enterprise has set up a drug refining operation in a nearby abandoned religious site and the doctor has made a Faustian bargain. For his silence, the leader of the criminal organization provides medical supplies for the hospital. The story also features a chimp called Fiona that is in love with Willie. It is up to Modesty and Willie to break the influence of the drug ring while preserving the hospital.
The second story is set in Australia, where the American Mafia is trying to create a branch operation. In order to test herself, when the story opens Modesty is engaged in a Walkabout, where she spends weeks in the bush with a group of Aborigines. In order to dissuade the criminal gang from entering Australia, Modesty and Willie create an elaborate scheme to convince them to go back to the United States.
The final story is the one that is used for the title of the book. Two billionaire evil manipulators that are bored with their monetary manipulations decide to extract revenge against Modesty by kidnapping her, putting her in a pit and then clamping an iron mask over her head. Their goal is to drive her insane before she dies. However, even though they are clever and insert a great deal of backup, they underestimate the capability of the girl in the iron mask.
The relationship between Modesty and Willie is one of deep love, the utmost respect and dedication, yet with not a hint of romance or desire for a sexual component. They are both devoted to their work and understand that if the nature of their relationship were to change, their adventures would end.
Marvel Comics Group has recently began introducing more female heroes to their comic lineup, the female Thor is the most prominent. When compared to what Modesty was doing decades ago, the character first appeared in 1963, Marvel is very late to this particular game. Modesty remains the first and best female hero.