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James Bond #1 review: neither shaken nor stirred

A great read, as long as you aren’t looking for a classic Bond experience.

I came into this issue as someone who enjoys the James Bond movies, but with little to no experience with Bond in prose or comics. Of course with this background, I had certain expectations for this new series — something high-stakes and action-packed, like the best Bond movies, with some cool gadgets and fun dialogue. However, the creative team of Vita Ayala, Danny Lore, Eric Gapstur, Roshru Kurichiyanil, Rebecca Nalty, and Adrianna Maher had a different idea for how to make this issue stand out. Spending the majority of the issue focusing on two investigators who are very specifically not James Bond was a good way to introduce him as a larger-than-life figure. Unfortunately, this comes at the cost of the issue as a whole becoming fairly uninteresting and very much not what I want as a new reader.

The craft of the issue itself isn’t in question — the whole issue is made very well for what it is. Most notably, Eric Gapstur does incredible work with the storytelling and page layouts for the whole issue. The first page turn into a double page spread is a magnificent show of style and skill as James Bond escapes his foes. There’s a later sequence where two investigators are trying to figure out how a heist happened, and the depiction feels right out of a stylish heist movie. It’s fast-paced and thoroughly enjoyable with really tight dialogue. In fact, the entire issue feels like an awesome heist movie from the opposite perspective, following the investigators trying to figure out what happened. Had it not had the name James Bond on the cover, it would have been a really neat first issue with no major downsides.

Both colorists on the issue do a wonderful job conveying the atmosphere and tone of the story in the speculative flashbacks and present day scenes. I’m not sure which scenes were done by which colorists (or if they collaborated on the whole thing) but there’s no feeling of disparity. Maher’s letters are also a major part of what makes this book work — the often excessive dialogue is turned into something readable and well-paced as Maher fits it all onto the page without ever obstructing the art and storytelling. Seriously, there are pages with over 100 words stuffed into word balloons. Thankfully, Maher’s lettering makes the dialogue feel snappy and fast-paced rather than a slog to read, which is the clear intent. Not that the script is inherently bad, it’s just that with a less skillful letterer it could have ended up far slower of a read.

As a whole, James Bond #1 is a fun comic that would be well worth reading were it not for the title, cover, and opening 3 pages. While the story of two investigators digging up information about a heist is fun in its own way, it’s not what someone would come from the James Bond movies to the comics for. There’s nothing in it that’s distinctively related to the titular character, and the stakes feel wholly disconnected from the type of stories that one would expect from Bond based on the films. While it may not be an easy sell for people looking for James Bond content, it’s definitely worth the read for people looking for a more low key story.

James Bond #1
Is it good?
James Bond #1 is a fun comic that would be well worth reading were it not for the title, cover, and opening three pages.
The heist story separate from James Bond himself is really fun.
Eric Gapstur's art is incredible, especially in its storytelling.
This may as well not be a James Bond story, and would be far better were it not called one.

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