If you don’t solely think that James Bond is a “sexist, misogynist dinosaur” and can’t wait for the latest cinematic installment to come any sooner, there are plenty of books and comics featuring Agent 007 to go around. Since 2014, Dynamite Entertainment – in a deal with Ian Fleming Publications – have published monthly James Bond comics with acclaimed writers putting their own stamp on the fictional spy, including Warren Ellis, Andy Diggle and Kieron Gillen. This time, it’s Greg Pak’s turn.
During a mission in Singapore, where he is assigned to track a Russian smuggler who is carrying a dangerous case featuring unknown contents, 007 is confronted by a Korean secret agent who has his own agenda to have the case. As Bond and his new rival John Lee are continuously crossing paths as they try to kill each other, their mission leads to a greater threat than themselves, which is the terrorist organization known as ORU.
An ongoing pun through this volume — as the mission is referred as “an odd job”, which might as well as be a joke from Bond himself — sets up the reinvention of an iconic Bond villain. Notable as the silent henchman as played by Harold Sakata in the film adaptation of Goldfinger, this successor to the original Oddjob is essentially Korea’s answer to James Bond himself, in that he is suave, tactical and a bit of a ladies’ man (while still sporting the bowler hat). Clearly, Pak in more invested in John Lee than James Bond, who is very much like in a lot of the movies, where he serves as a vehicle to drive through the adventure.
That’s not to say that Bond is negated completely, as his characterization stands out when he is butting heads with John Lee, especially when they have to work together, along with Moneypenny who serves as a liaison. Seeing these two men with a similar set of skills poking fun at each other adds levity into the whole idea of Bond himself. Although there are obvious references to the movies – including the recent cinematic depiction of Moneypenny – the comic leans more into Fleming’s literature in that there is less focus on gadgetry and more on Bond as a tactical spy with an emphasis on grit than glamor.
With the story taking place in a modernization of Fleming’s world, artist Marc Laming nails that gritty realism and spy fantasy we come to expect from Bond as the eponymous spy, and his rival can go from formal wear in exotic locations to tactical espionage in the face of danger. The action in particular feels more in line with Fleming’s writing, between the gritty fight sequences and Bond’s license to kill. The only downside in terms of art is the change of artist with two issues drawn by Stephen Mooney, who is not doing a bad job, but his rough illustrations lack the polish of Laming’s work.
Halfway through his Oddjob epic, Greg Pak and co. present an entertaining Bond adventure that has the tropes you expect from the eponymous spy, but rejiggers them into something fresh and exciting.