In this issue, we get to see James Bond learn another skill that will come to serve him well in the years to come. We get to see Bond learn to play cards, you guys.
Look, I know I’m exactly the right audience for this book. I’ve mentioned more than once in my reviews for James Bond: 007 that I’m a total sucker for a casino scene in a James Bond story, but I never expected to be just as excited by the origin of those scenes. While it’s expected that this story will follow Bond learning all kinds of spycraft and such, it never occurred to me what other kind of formative experiences we’d get to see the young secret agent go through.
This was an issue that will be profoundly pleasing to fans of the character. It’s a clever twist to show the usually-capable Bond having to ask for a lesson in something, so it’s not as cloying as, say, “Where did Han Solo get his dumb dice that no one cares about?” It actually feels like important character development, not only for the man we know he’ll become, but also as an organic part of the story being told.
Bond learns that playing cards is just as much about reading your opponent as it is knowing the rules of the game, a lesson that will serve him well in the future. And yes, we do get a beautiful casino scene, which looks equal parts lavish and seedy. Using the different card suits as a plot point is also a clever move, one beautifully illustrated by Ibrahim Moustafa, who makes the act of turning over a single playing card look nearly as intimidating as someone pulling a gun on our young hero.
However, the naivete of Bond is shown in other, more subtle ways, beyond him not knowing how to play rummy. At this age, he’s the kind of fellow who writes down a cheat sheet to make sure he doesn’t forget how to play a game. He’s cocky, but he’s not entirely confident in his ability to B.S. the enemy. He’s still very green, but it’s shown in ways that aren’t entirely obvious. He’s also much more forgiving and trusting than he would come to be, giving his old teammate the chance to do some good.
There’s a really strong read of Bond’s character and his desire to see things through, which I applaud Jeff Parker for including. It’s clear that the years will harden him, but there’s still some wide-eyed optimism present in James.
This was easily my favorite issue in a bit. It combined everything the series has been doing so well, simultaneously laying the building blocks for the man who will be 007 and providing us with plenty of action and humor.