By popular demand, discuss here the latest pencilled adventures of Bond.
And Casino Royale has a - provisional? - cover:
Thanks to Orion for finding this!
Thanks for setting this up Dustin!
I’m really looking forward to the CR graphic novel. I’m hoping they get to adapt all of the Fleming stories. With about nine years left in the deal, hopefully Dynamite has enough time. With 12 other novels and a bunch of short stories, they’d have to get a move on.
Recently read VARGR. It was alright, but I didn’t love it. Felt a bit too… artsy? I’m not sure how best to describe my issues with it. Something about it just felt… off. Like it was too much comic and too little Bond.
For my birthday, my wife bought me three more volumes of the Titan reprints of the Daily Express strips-- The Spy Who Loved Me, Colonel Sun, and The Golden Ghost. Flipping through them, I was reminded this afternoon of how much I enjoyed Titan’s previous volumes of these strips. Something about them felt authentically Fleming and Bondian. I love both the writing and the artwork. I wish Dynamite’s were more like these (I’m referring to style more than content-- I don’t really need new renditions of Fleming’s stories).
I recently bought Dynamite’s one-off “Service.” I’m hoping it’s better than VARGR, but for me these pale in comparison to the Express strips.
So far, I’d rank the comic arcs like this:
- Felix Leiter
- Black Box
These comics have been my favourite Bond products in years, much more than the continuation novels. I think they’ve managed to satisfy both sections of the fanbase. The fans of the cold hearted interpretations of Bond get their fill, as do the lovers of the movie Bond’s emphasis on fantasy and escapism.
So the latest issue of Kill Chain is out. I’m enjoying this series much more than Hammerhead for sure. The timing of certain aspects and real world events was interesting. I think this is the first semi-direct acknowledgment of Trump’s administration and their views on intelligence. Service was a bit more vague, and was actually written before the election results were known.
The Express strips were daily newspaper strips, which comes with a number of peculiarities: only three to four panels per go, sometimes just two; little room for action sequences; every panel and every strip must be conceived so a reader missing out a day or two doesn’t lose the entire story. The story must never rush forward too fast or slow down too much.
Under such conditions the strips did really a remarkable job in adapting Fleming’s works near perfect with only very minor concessions, making Bond the narrator in some cases or expanding the lesser plots and roles a bit, like giving Goodnight and Kissy greater parts. Overall the strips are as close to the source material as you could get in that medium.
The artwork by McLusky often employs expressionist angles, broad strokes and harsh contrasts to convey action and tempo. Bond is a very original interpretation independent from Fleming’s commissioned image, his face quite a bit brutish at times; the villains and the women are - in the absence of previous images from the films - largely as described in the books. Only with OHMSS does McLuskey play with giving Bond a bit more of Connery and less of Robert Taylor.
The cars and interiors are faithful to the period, the clothes roomy and comfortable to the point that Bond could be 20 pounds overweight and nobody would notice. Bond is often wearing hats, Homburgs and Trilbys and once a flat cap even, and everything is a bit more 50s than 60s. There is a conspicuous absence of the Bond style we’ve come to expect from the films. Instead, the adaptations up until YOLT look like what you might expect if the Eon series had started ten years earlier.
When Lawrence and Horak took over the strip with the last panel of YOLT in January 1966, the latter gave Bond a slimmer silhouette and the whole strip a hipper, more 60s style. The interiors now were more detailed, the angles more dynamic. And Scaramanga’s unspectacular hotel now looked as if Ken Adam had been involved as decorator. At the same time the faces of the protagonists acquired a slight tendency to caricature, which isn’t always bad. But obviously also not always a good thing either. I sometimes wish Horak had done YOLT too, mainly for the greater sense of surrealism he would have captured.
Right, and I miss this style. I don’t need modern Bond comics to be done in the daily newspaper strip format, but somehow I found these stories more engaging and slightly easier to follow than VARGR. Additionally, VARGR seemed to shoehorn in unnecessary action every few pages, almost as if they were afraid we would get bored. The Titan strips, on the other hand, managed to convey suspense and tension without random action scenes-- I guess they just felt more relevant to the plot in the Titan strips.
But as I’ve only read VARGR, I’m hoping other Dynamite entries are more to my liking.
I’ve finished reading Black Box and it’s disappoining. The story, though interesting, is very, very schematic. There are no twists, no suprieses. The characters are flat and lifeless, with the exception of Selah Sax perhaps. Some things I don’t understand, like Bond - Leiter relationship. I find it hard to believe that those two, even on mission, could be so hostile to each other. Leiter is also completely different character to the one portrayed in James Bond: Felix Leiter.
I also didn’t like Lobosco’s art. Though there are some good panels, there are also some really really bad. Especially the characters, which are sometimes grotesque (see Leiter’s face on page 13, issue 5).
Reading Black Box can be fun and entertaining, but only if your expectations are not too high, I suppose.
Yeah, the Leiter characterization seems to change from series to series. I believe I said in the old forums that I’m not quite sure what his actual timeline is. I think it goes Eideleon, Felix Leiter, Service, Black Box, then Kill Chain. But the whole business of Felix being with the CIA in Eideloen, going back to being freelance in Felix Leiter, and then suddenly back with the CIA during everything else doesn’t make sense.
Another thought: in this comic continuity, have any of the Fleming stories happened? We know that SPECTRE existed, but not in what context.
I doubt the Dynamite run aims to include all its storyarchs and spinoffs into one greater tale. The authors most likely just have a ‘bible’, and apart from the commandments in this they can use or ignore the other entries as they choose.
I think so. The general constants are the designs of M, Moneypenny, Q and Felix. The DB10 pops up across the arcs as well. I think there’s continuity but it’s loose at times.
It appears so. Dynamite’s comics is a mix of ideas, some based on novels, some on films. Even though it should be extension of books, as I understand. I think it should be a bit more coherent because soon it will be rather messy. Leiter is a good example: private eye in one series, CIA agent in the other. Jovial and cordial on one occasion, then somewhat broken person with a very low self esteem. Very strange.
The comics gradually developed into their own thing once Fleming’s source material was covered and they had to create their own original storylines. Lawrence tried it with a mix of outlandish stories and some sexed up images which ran for quite some time but was anything but Bond. Mike Grell then made his version a mix of films and books, with a Gardner reference even.
Grell may have been more influential than he’s given credit for: he was the one bringing back the DB5 in a panel from Permission To Die - years before GOLDENEYE.
Bond has been battling everything from spies to dinosaurs and vampires in comics, seldom with really big success after the source material was used up. The Dynamite run now put him back in a more grounded world. Still, I thought Ellis’ two stories could have been a bit more daring. After all, where if not in comics could you use that element of the bizarre that is a precious ingredient in 007’s adventures?
Finally got around to reading Eidolon, and I have to say I’m not feeling the love. Aside from little things like the underwhelming artwork (admittedly, a matter of taste), I had a hard time getting past the endless scenes of nauseating violence. I mean, I get it: James Bond is a killer and the people he fights are killers. But there is so often a lingering, I might even say lustful focus on heads exploding that I have to wonder if Dynamite misinterpreted Bond as a horror franchise. (Though in the interests of full disclosure, I should share that by the end I was almost desensitized to it, to the point where I actually laughed at one image of twin plumes of blood erupting from a bald guy’s temples, making him look like Larry Fine by way of The Walking Dead.)
Again, though, that’s a matter of taste. For all I know Bond fandom is full of people saying, “You know, I like Bond, but I’d like it a lot better if there were more scenes of brains coming out of heads.” But for me, the story itself exists largely as an excuse to get from one violent episode to the next, most of which are confusingly choreographed and sometimes involve actions I’m pretty sure are physically impossible (at least, I hope they are).
Characters don’t fare much better. The females look a bit different to each other and have different occupations, but plot-wise they all get the same role: “Hi, I’m smart and capable and you’re a reprehensible pig, Mr Bond. Let’s shag.” Usually they don’t even wait for him to try and seduce them. Spilling people’s brains on the sidewalk in front of them is aphrodisiac enough.
Bond himself is something of a cypher, a generic hard -ass in expensive suits who could’ve been given any name in the story and it would’ve played out the same. He doesn’t really seem related to the guy Fleming wrote or the guy in the classic films. To some extent, that’s a complaint I have about the Craig films, but at least Craig anchors his Bond with a certain humanity. This guy is just a killing machine; to the extent he has a personality at all, he’s a pr*ck.
His chief adversary is a disillusioned war vet with a scarred face. If there’s any suspense to be foundl, it comes from the fact that he’s as good at killing as Bond, but of course this isn’t the first rodeo for any of us, so the outcome of their grudge match is never in doubt. Bond’s going to take the day, but only because his name’s on the book, not because he’s a “good guy” by any sane person’s definition. Bond is the “hero” because he looks good, the other guy is the villain because he’s disfigured, otherwise they’re the same guy. Again, a criticism often leveled at the films, but made bluntly real in this iteration.
I don’t know, I just feel like there’s a tremendous superficiality to this whole thing, an indulgence in borderline pornographic violence, masquerading as something “ironically post-modern” in its deliberate moral ambivalence. I hesitated for a while to type “pornographic” because I thought it might be over-the-top, but ultimately I decided it’s the perfect word, because just like those little Tijuana Bibles used to be all about getting cartoon characters into sexual situations as quickly as possible, this book has a similar feeling of, “Geez, it’s been two pages already and nobody’s head’s exploded. What a lame book! Oh, no, wait a minute, here it comes…OH, YEAH!”
I think I’ll be giving the rest of the “updated” Dynamite Bond books a miss, but I still have high hopes for the CR adaptation. Won’t buy it without a chance to page through it first, though.
The two Ellis stories in my view are very much shoot-em-beat-em-up, not much Bond vibe about it. Also, I found it strange how again and again men in suits are shown sitting with their jacket buttoned, bizarre. The sad thing for me was, there was no real feeling of an adventure or of the Bond world at all, it could just as well have been a violent SPOOKS episode or some other action franchise. I was definitely hoping for more from Ellis.
Yeah, Ellis has kind of a reputation, so I guess I should’ve known there would be a lot of violence for its own sake, but honestly it felt like the artist was the one obsessed with headshots, as if the script said simply, “then a gunfight breaks out” and the artist thought “oh yeah! It’s on!”
Even though the women are inexplicably driven to sleep with Bond, there’s no nudity or sex scenes. Probably because sex can’t be counted on to end with exploding heads (with all apologies to Larry Niven), or possibly because Bond would have to unbutton his coat. Also as I recall every character has just one set of clothes for the whole series.
Anyway, Dustin, are you implying I might like Diggle’s “Hammerhead” better? I very nearly went with that one instead.
Frankly, I cannot say either way. I bought Vargr and Eidolon and after reading decided I wasn’t the target audience for this. But if you get the chance to take a closer look at other stories and think they might appeal to you, do try them out. After all it’s always possible another author gets a better grip on what I think of as ‘the Bond vibe’.
As mentioned earlier, the run consists of individual stories only loosely connected by basic circumstances and personnel - and of course primarily conceived with a current comic readership in mind. By default there will be slightly different takes and versions - always possible something more to your liking turns up.
If it is Ellis level of violence (intentionally chosen to try and mimic how a 50’s audience would have read Fleming’s novels apparantly, though I’m WAAAY too young to give an opinion on that) then you should give Diggle’s a try, Hammerhead is closer to the films and Kill Chain is so far in the realms of social commentary (one bit in particular was more relevant when it was published than it would have been when written). Benjamin Percy’s aims more for surrealism, I enjoyed it, but see why others didn’t - it’s the Lewis Gilbert Bond in regards to the comics. The standalone stories are then different again, point is, only Ellis went for a violent Bond, and your enjoyment of his comics were very dependant on how comfortable you are with that level of violence. I came to love comics through Hellblazer, The Sandmam and other Vertigo titles - by comparison to which Ellis Bond is a Disney movie.