A new James Bond flick comes out in the USA this week and so does this comic written by star comic book writer Warren Ellis. Am I in heaven? Is it good?
James Bond #1 (Dynamite Entertainment)
This story is called “VARGR”, which opens on a shady looking dude being chased in the night. We are in Helsinki and vengeance is to be had! Meanwhile we check in with James Bond, his main compatriots and a new plot that involves a law that doesn’t let Bond carry a gun in his home country. Sounds interesting!
Why does this comic book matter?
It’s called James Bond, who is one of the most popular characters in modern times. Guy has more movies than there are martini combinations and he’s most definitely the most famous agent, secret or not, in history.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
This is a very measured and well paced first issue by Warren Ellis. The man opens on an exciting scene where we don’t know who the characters are, where James Bond even is, and what the deal is about. Bond even fights in an unconventional way and the mission, if it even is a mission, doesn’t seem very Bond like. There are no sexy women, interesting locales or gadgets. This is James Bond in a brutal and honest kill-or-be-killed mission. Awesome.
The remaining issue sets up the characters, perfectly captures James’ charm and reminds us who Moneypenny is and of the sexual tension between them. In a scant six panels Ellis shows us two characters who respect one another, but also like each other.
Something that most critics might not notice is how Ellis is clearly showing us a version of James Bond who is an employee. Unlike the movies, where he can run off and disappear for months on end, this James Bond has to abide by rules, follow orders and sit down and shut up. In another very well paced scene we see how Bond, as carefree and reckless as he usually is, still needs to be quiet and listen. Ellis is effectively setting up a boss who doesn’t care for Bond’s fun and carefree nature and clearly wants an agent who will do their job efficiently and quickly. This James Bond is having fun sure, but he’s not the broken down and deeply emotional version we’ve seen portrayed by Daniel Craig.
I’m unfamiliar with artist Jason Masters’ work, but I like it. It actually reminds me of the more clean work seen in the classic comic strip. The offices Bond walks through are simple and even boring, which helps sell the job aspect Ellis is going for. Even the gadget shop looks cold and rather boring in its way and we’re clearly seeing a more architectural look of the scenes.
Bond looks good too. He’s much more akin to George Lazenby than Craig or Sean Connery, that’s for sure. He’s got the black slicked back hair and chiseled jaw. Some might say he looks a bit too much like Archer but he has a wry sense of suaveness Archer will never have. Plus Masters can draw a serious action sequence proven in the opening pages. This book is in good hands.
It can’t be perfect can it?
The narcotics storyline didn’t fit as cleanly as it should have. It’s a storyline that’s building for James in the next issue and it feels oddly stuffed in here with no real purpose. It’s hard to care about it, even if it’s only a blip to be seen more of later.
Is It Good?
An original James Bond who’s having a bit more fun, a new direction and an honest feel. That’s exciting and it’s nice to see it’s not trying to be like the movies; it’s its own beast playing by its own rules.