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Full Name: Annika Malikova
Codename: Baboushka
Nationality: Russian
Organization: EON
Occupation Agent

Creator: Antony Johnston
Time Span: 2015 - 2017


Countess Annika Malikova, aka Codename Babouska, is an agent with EON.

She really is a countess, a member of the long deposed Russian aristocracy, the last of a noble line. As she puts it in the second recorded adventure, she is the "last heir of the noble House of Malikov, which was first known to the Grand Princes of Kiev," a lineage which has existed for many hundreds of years. 

She is also the head of a Russian crime syndicate, or at least was until a collection of rival gangs formed their own cabal to take her organization down. She was known then to the underworld only as Baboushka, or 'Grandmother', so when she was forced to flee to America to stay alive, she was able to hide in plain sight under her real identity of Malikova.

At least until three years passed and she was approached by the somber, no-nonsense man known as Mr. Clay, the head of EON, or Extrajudicial Operations Network. EON is an ultra-secret organization which, among other things," conducts assignments that would otherwise embarrass [the] government", as Malikova puts it when she reluctantly meets with Mr. Clay. Clay is definitely not above using less than ethical means to achieve his agency's goals including the very real threat of throwing Malikova back on a plane to Moscow and certain elimination unless she helps him.

Malikova is a stunningly beautiful woman in her likely early 30s with long white hair, an hereditary trait for which she was given the nickname of Babouska. She is in superb physical shape and well versed in hand-to-hand combat, including knowledge of Fighting Hopak, a Ukraine combat style. She is also very adept in the use of a wide range of weapons, short and long. In addition, she has a nice collection of gadgets she is not adverse to using, such as explosive earrings and small Matryoska doll grenades, stun and more deadly..

Babouska has as her right hand man and best friend the much older 'Gyorgy' Gyorgyov, a man whose age and crippled leg prevents him for accompanying her on her missions but who is expert enough with computers and other technical aspects to keep in contact with her on those assignments and to assist in a variety of ways, including frequent suggestions to "get out" of lots of dangerous situations - she never listens!

Good line:

- Said by Malikova at the end of her first recorded assignment, "You might think I'm a hero. That would be a mistake."


Number of Stories:2
First Appearance:2015
Last Appearance:2017

     With these two sets of mini-series adventures, veteran comicbook writer Antony Johnston introduces a very impressive female protagonist who can more than hold her own in any scrape.

     He also presents a forum for some awesome articles about women in a lead role in comics and the game  industry, columns which are well worth the time to read them.

1 The Conclave of Death The Conclave of Death
Published by Image Comics
Contributors: Antony Johnston (writer), Shari Chankhamma (artist), Simon Bowland (letters)
Copyright: 2015

Published in a 5-issue mini-series of the same name from October 2015 to March 2016 and released later that year as a graphic novel.
EON learns that a man named Felton, an aging ex-CIA official turned global crime lord, is planning on selling his storehouse of data amassed over a couple decades for working first the the Agency and then as a crime boss. Mr. Clay wants someone with Malikova's background to attend the conclave of international crime bosses where an auction is to be held.

Part 1 - Malikova's first step is to infiltrate an end-of-year gathering of Goran Sablic, one of the world's most notorious criminals, in a mountain retreat in the Andes and eliminate him. We also see flashbacks to how Malikova and Mr. Clay meet three weeks before. Plus a one page set up for the next step.
Part 2 - Sent to the Indian Ocean to join an ocean liner cruising there, Malikova will crash the secret auction is being held there as Felton tells the group of his trove for sale. That part of the mission is just starting when Somali pirates hijack the ship for ransom. As Babouska fights back, she learns that the head pirate is working for someone higher up and there is something far bigger than a hijacking underway.
Part 3 - Continuing to elude the pirates hunting her on the huge ship, Malikova overhears the leader talk to his boss by phone promising to find the now-dead ex-CIA official's data. That unknown boss is well familiar with how capable Baboushka can be.
Part 4 - Meeting up with another member of the conclave, Malikova determines who the real boss is and that the purpose of the attack is to get the data without paying for it. Now she needs to stop them from succeeding and from killing lots of people including her.
Part 5 - Knowing the whole plan that the hijackers have and surviving it are two different things. Plus there is the matter of finding the data Felton was going to sell. Then dealing with a duplicitous Mr. Clay after the fireworks are over.

2 Ghost Station Zero Ghost Station Zero
Published by Image Comics
Contributors: Antony Johnston (writer), Shari Chankhamma (artist), Simon Bowland (letters)
Copyright: 2017

Published in a 4-issue mini-series of the same name from August 2017 to November 2017 and released the next year as a graphic novel.
Ghost Stations are "a network of abandoned Soviet Cold War bases, left to rot for the past thirty years", each a treasure trove of intel. EON has been locating them, snatching the data, and then destroying them. So has someone else recently. Annika Malikova, Codename Babouska, is given the assignment to reach one of those stations before the other team does to learn who they are and then stop them.
Part 1 - Before getting the next mission from Mr. Clay, Malikova has some unfinished business in China where she disrupts a human trafficking operation and helps eliminate the man behind it. Then it is on to Montelmo Resort in the Swiss Alps where a ghost station is thought to exist.
Part 2 - At the resort, Malikova is looking for a mission EON agent. She has been told he was meeting a contact at the casino there known as HH. Finding her to be an attractive blackjack dealer, she seduces the woman and then uses her to get to Ghost Station Zero.
Part 3 - Learning what happened to the missing agent is followed up by learning who is person behind the competition with EON. Before she can go after that person, however, Malikova has to deal with an very angry and revengeful HH, not to mention an avalanche.
Part 4 - Tracking down where the head of the opposition is heading came quite quickly but so too did the return of a very, very angry HH, sporting an eye-patch thanks to Baboushka. Taken to the final location, Greenland, as a prisoner means the chances for surviving are quite low.


For reasons I will never understand, I had possession of both sets of these mini-series for a couple of years, always meaning to get to them 'soon'. Delay made no sense at all, though, because I already knew how terrific a storyteller the author was from two other series he created and scripted as well as one other he did a bang-up job on. Waiting was silly and yet wait I did.

Then I read them and was even more embarrassed. These are awesome adventures told beautifully with as much excitement and action and mayhem as one could hope for, told with a beautiful and resourceful lead. Waiting was more than stilly, it was stupid.

I love Annika Malikova, Codename Baboushka. I enjoyed both adventures a lot and really, really wish there were more. Or maybe a novel or two. Or something! So far, several years later, there has been nothing more but I can hope, right?


My Grade: A


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