James Bond is everything to me.
…Okay, maybe that’s a slight exaggeration, but I’ve been enamored by 007 since I was a kid, taking in all-day Bond film marathons and the occasional episode of the goofy children’s cartoon, James Bond Jr. I own all of the films and multiple copies of each of the books, have written my own short fiction starring Bond creator Ian Fleming as the lead character, and I have no less than TWO recreations of Sean Connery’s powder blue onesie from Goldfinger in my wardrobe. No, I’m not kidding.
Suffice it to say, I’m a fan of the character in all of his incarnations (okay, maybe not the cartoon). I think Dynamite’s many creative teams over the last few years have shown displayed a firm grasp on what makes the character work and why he’s such a bastard that you can’t help but root for. While I’ve enjoyed the various miniseries and one-shots (mimicking the episodic nature of the classic film series) since Warren Ellis’ ongoing ended last fall, I’ve been itching for more long-form adventures. That’s why I jumped at the chance to check out this new series from Greg Pak (The Incredible Hulk) and Marc Laming (Star Wars)!
The series opens with James staking out some kind of international smuggling deal. It’s not clear what is being exchanged, but the smuggler indicates that it’s highly volatile. This routine mission is disrupted by the arrival of another secret agent who displays skills and speed that match or possibly exceed Bond’s.
This agent introduces himself as Mr. Lee, but by the first few pages, any Bond fan will recognize him as classic Goldfinger henchman Oddjob! Given that he and Bond don’t seem to recognize each other, I’m curious to see how Greg Pak approaches the James Bond canon in future issues. This is the same version of James introduced by Warren Ellis in 2016, so it’s safe to say that this Bond been in the 00 game for at least a few years. Will this tell the story of the boisterous and charming Mr. Lee’s fall from grace and resignation to the level of silent henchbaddie?
On that note, I must say I’m surprised at how much of the issue focuses on the enigmatic Mr. Lee. He’s portrayed as calm and collected, cracking jokes and kicking ass. There are shades of From Russia With Love‘s opening sequence as we begin the comic following Bond’s nemesis of the piece on a mission, rather than Bond himself. We actually don’t see 007 until about a third of the way through the book, but boy, it’s a nice introduction. I’m a sucker for a casino scene in a Bond picture and the first image of him gazing coldly at his target over the rim of a Vesper martini just hits me right in the sweet spot.
That being said, this first issue doesn’t give Bond much of a personality. He’s all business in this one, barely cracking a smile as he cleans out Mr. Lee at the card table. Even Bond’s brief phone call to MI-6’s Ms. Moneypenny late in the issue is all business, no flirting. It seems as though Pak assumes folks picking this up will be familiar with Dynamite’s previous 007 comics, so he charges ahead with the story, rather than ingratiate Bond with the reader. As a fan of the character, I thought it was an interesting choice, but I can’t help but wonder how this Bond will play to the uninitiated.
Where Bond himself really shines in this issue is the chase scene that takes up much of the second half. The illustrations are very fluid, with hand-to-hand fights laid out almost blow-by-blow, panel-by-panel. Bond’s facial expressions show how little he was expecting Mr. Lee’s fighting prowess, with Lee’s face denoting how cool and confident he is in each encounter. Bond also shows how stone cold he is in a moment where he’s confronted with the prospect of nabbing his quarry or coming to the aid of another. It’s a harsh moment that’s entirely in line with Bond’s portrayal in the original Ian Fleming novels and I find it interesting that Pak shows this ruthless side of Bond in a story that paints the title character’s enemy as a dashing rogue. The contrast must be intentional and I want to see how it pays off in future issues.
All in all, it’s an interesting start to a new series of Bond adventures. Pak has claimed in interviews that he has stories planned out for the title well into the next year and he’s already doing some unexpected things with the structure of the story and portrayal of the title character. With the reintroduction (or introduction?) of a classic Bond villain to the Dynamite canon, I’m curious to see where Pak and Laming take this opening storyline! I’d definitely say to give this one a read if you’re somewhat familiar with the trappings of James Bond and want to see a bit of a meaner, more realistic take on the character that’s more in line with the original novels.