Modesty Blaise: The Killing Distance, by Peter O’Donnell and Enric Badia Romero
Five out of five stars
At a time (early sixties) when women were almost universally portrayed as weak and the only support that they can give the hero is to make the coffee, Peter O’Donnell created the character of Modesty Blaise. With her partner Willie Garvin, she carries out the most dangerous assignments, yet kills only when absolutely necessary. The two of them are true professional partners, capable of acting independently, yet when orders need to be given, it is Modesty that gives them. While there is no sexual component to their relationship, neither one ever hesitates to strip in front of the other when the circumstances require it.
There are three stories in this graphic novel, “Guido the Jinx,” “The Killing Distance” and “The Aristo.” In the first one, Modesty and Willie are primitive camping along the old silk road in Central Asia when they come across a film crew shooting a story about a tribe of cave men. As is the case in all Modesty stories, when Modesty and Willie agree to serve as stunt people things rapidly escalate into a matter of grave international danger.
In “The Killing Distance” a former highly ranked KGB operative that has changed identity to become a wealthy billionaire decides to have Sir Gerald Tarrant killed. The attempted assassination takes place in front of Modesty and Willie and it then becomes their purpose to turn the tables on the billionaire.
“The Aristo” has Modesty and Willie in Asia making the rounds of disabled retirees from Modesty’s former organization, “The Network.” A major villain attempts to kill them by sabotaging their plane and they are forced to ditch at sea. In true Blaise style where things always go from bad to much worse, this pits Modesty and Willie against a deadly and ruthless pirate crew.
Modesty Blaise is one of the most powerful and capable female characters ever created and in these three stories she is at the top of her game. While they rarely seek danger out for themselves, Willie and Modesty do not hesitate in stepping into it when they encounter what they consider a just cause. Unlike other heroes that kill when it is convenient, they only do so when it is absolutely necessary. These are great stories featuring what was one of the first strong female heroes.