James Bond: Service Special hits this week, a 48-page, $7.99 special from Kieron Gillen and Antonio Fuso that delivers a James Bond one-shot story rife with American/British politics. Given the climate in politics for both countries today this seems very well timed.
Writer: Kieron Gillen
Artist: Antonio Fuso
Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment
So what’s it about? The official summary reads:
In contemporary politics, where Britain’s world standing is often more zero than 007, an assassin plans to exterminate the “special relationship,” and lead Britain and the United States into a very dark place…especially when he does so by aiming down the sights of an ancient Enfield rifle! It’ll test Bond’s deadly talents to their limits, in order to defeat the assassin and avert certain geopolitical disaster…
Why does this book matter?
Gillen is a writer that’s hard to ignore these days, especially if you’re a Star Wars fan. Fuso is best known for his G.I. Joe comics which are more akin to spy dramas like Bond. Mix in the very contemporary political point of view of this story and it’s a book that should be on your radar.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
The new American diplomacy.
This is a well written issue that’s well paced and on point throughout. Gillen opens the issue revealing the ignorant point of view of the current U.S. Secretary of State. The guy is all blustery and discredits Britain for being any use to America, which sets in motion a threat that’s internal to the UK, but also a terrorist one. Because the threat is unknown, Gillen implores a detective angle for James Bond, which is not only a unique use for the character, but a way to lead the reader on a clue infused story. Overall this issue opens and closes very well, has some action and intrigue thrown in, and captures the voice of Bond well.
In keeping with the Dynamite series, Gillen writes a somewhat sullen, serious, but also smiling on the outside James Bond. He’s all business when he needs to be, also polite, but knows when to relax a bit. It gives him a real world vibe that suits the nature of the story.
The political elements of this issue are bound to relate to readers. From the bullheaded nature of the Secretary of the State, to the very real threat of native born terrorists, these are issues that are very real. They also allow Gillen to explore a bit with how Bond may perceive these types of threats.
The art by Fuso has a thin line that’s flat, but good at capturing a realistic look. Backgrounds, clothes (and their textures) look sharp and realistic. A clever use of art helps convey the fact finding mission Bond is on, where Bond says visuals in the talk bubbles. It’s a nice way to convey to the reader what he’s saying. There’s also some dynamic layout work too. In a great full page spread for instance, Bond is seen shooting, a bad guy is shown getting shot and the target is shown reacting all in the same moment. The placement of the characters down the page helps convey the action in real time and make it look quite dynamic.
Now we know it’s serious.
It can’t be perfect can it?
There are times where the art’s simplicity is a determinant. A face could have a few lines that add up to something that’s close to a face, but not quite. That goes for consistency, which in general is good, but there’s a panel or two where Bond or another character look nothing like they do for most of the issue.
Unfortunately due to the shortness of comic books, Gillen doesn’t have the opportunity to flesh out the villains very well. Most of this book is about Bond figuring out the threat and doing the detective work, so that when they do show up their perspective is more blind terrorist nutjob racists. That makes the villains more of a blanket threat that’s less interesting that leads to a somewhat less satisfying conclusion. Given the price ($7.99!) I’m not sure the more airy nature of the plot can justify the price tag.
Is It Good?
A strong issue, especially for those of you who want to see Bond flex his detective muscles. It also contains political points of view that are very well timed. That said, the villains are somewhat flat, and the plot looser than one might expect from a book that costs nearly 8 dollars.