Story: Warren Ellis
Art: Jason Masters
Colors: Guy Major
What They Say:
James Bond is alone in Berlin, with nothing but the clothes on his back and the gun in his hand. When help is offered from an unexpected source, Bond has no choice but to accept it – even though it may guarantee that he doesn’t live through the night.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
As we move past the halfway mark for the first arc in the new James Bond series, I keep coming back to this feeling that as much as I’m enjoying it, it likely should have been an original graphic novel approach rather than a monthly series. With the nature of the arc and the slow unfurling of information, and the monthly+ schedule, it’s hard to really maintain a strong narrative here in twenty-odd pages like this. The story is one that works well enough but it’s reinforced in that it works better when reading it in full, particularly for the flow of the story. It really feels like Ellis could have plotted things better without having to deal with the end of issue mini cliffhangers and the like.
With the mess that was put into play the last time around with the death of everyone in the Berlin office, it’s now shifted to the killer meeting up with Bond to take him to a supposed CIA facility to regroup. It’s done all very casual and it is amusing to see the not subtle at all secondary speak going on when Bond talks on the phone with home base. The old tradecraft side of it certainly has that dated feeling that it should but is given enough to work with in how the characters handle it, playing along as long as they can until it all goes south once back at Kurjak’s labs. Which, of course, are full of dead bodies after what Kurjak has done there as part of his bigger plan.
What this installment gives us are two different but expected pieces. The first is a pretty solid fight that plays out over most of it as Bond has to survive the killer, which Masters illustrates really well here with some great panel layouts and flow of the action. The Al-Zein guy doesn’t register that much in general, but once he starts feeling things it takes on a much darker tone. The other piece is that Kurjak gets to do his classic Bond Villain speech about what he’s doing, which is essentially turning England into a giant test bed for a disastrous virus that will devastate the country. It works on a certain level but at the same time just doesn’t feel like it really connects with the reasons why. The sequence itself works well between the two with Bond locked in the sealed lab just as it’s about to be decontaminated, but it’s also just too predictable.
As much as I enjoy James Bond in general and as much as I’m getting enjoyment out of this series, something is having a hard time clicking here. Part of it is that we’re doing a simple story that doesn’t have the gravitas it needs to feel bigger even with the threats in play, simply because of the constraints of the format. Should this stick to monthly? Should it be full-length graphic novels first? Or is there a way to do standalone chapters that tell enough of a story to make it worthwhile? And as much as I like Ellis, is he really the right writer for this? There are no issues with the VARGR storyline overall, but it’s lacking something really compelling here to make it work, something that both novels and films are able to do but are falling short here. I’m curious to see how things go after this arc more than anything else at this point.
Age Rating: 13+
Released By: Dynamite Entertainment
Release Date: February 10th, 2016