One of the hardest buy-ins for a prequel is the idea that, in many cases, you’re following a character who is ostensibly invincible. They have a type of plot armor afforded to them by the fact that they have to survive long enough for us to see their future adventures. That being said, this issue is so intense that it’s actually easy to forget we’re reading about a character with years of stories ahead of him.
The boldest thing about this issue is how much of this story is told without any dialogue. While the issue closes with a much-needed, plot-heavy dialogue scene, a solid 80% of this issue is just Bond fighting for his life, trading bullets with the enemy and trying to get to friendlier seas. The minimal dialogue here is mostly from Bond to himself, psyching himself up to get to the next safe spot, then the next.
Ibrahim Moustafa’s pencils really sell the desperation of Bond’s run for freedom, from facial expressions to body language. After several bullets whizz past his head, he grabs his helmet to make sure everything’s intact. When he curses himself for not speaking better Russian, there’s a wry look of disappointment on his face; James is almost amused by his own laziness in that department. There’s so much solid (yet subtle) character development happening over the course of what is essentially an issue-long action sequence. It’s really a sight to behold.
The whole issue is beautifully brought to life by Michael Garland’s coloring, which embraces the dirty earth tones of a stirred-up battlefield and marries them with vibrant colors that make every gunshot and explosion really pop. This is easily the most visceral issues of the series yet, but the colors on these pages make the sequence of events look oddly beautiful. Even when he’s fearing for his life, this issue demonstrated why a fellow like James would come to love the adrenaline rush of combat and the thrill of the hunt.
In terms of story, this issue ties up several loose ends from the last couple of arcs, while also answering a few nagging questions that I didn’t even consider before they were mentioned. It even manages to plant a couple of suspicious seeds that should be fun to see play out in future issues.
In many ways, this book is proving to be the perfect companion series to Greg Pak’s James Bond: 007 series. Even though they’re set in different timelines and continuities, they explore familiar versions of the same character, just from very different angles. For the spectacle you’d expect from a great 007 film, Pak’s series is a lot of fun. For the down and dirty espionage of Ian Fleming’s novels, this is your series. Both are valid and well-made stories, so you’re in good hands, depending on what type of Bond story you like. If you’re like me and you dig both, then you’re in luck; Dynamite and their creative teams continue to knock it out of the park with both of these series.
As mentioned previously, the plot-heavy section of the issue is relegated to just a few pages, but it never feels like the plot is getting short-changed in favor of action. There’s some massively economical storytelling in this issue, and somehow none of it feels rushed or overly condensed. This book is packed to the gills with action, but the creative touches throughout make it so much more than an average “fight issue.”