It may be a new year now but December 2015 was one of those rare months with five Wednesdays, which means one extra comic book week for various companies to seek to rock readers like a thunder-ball. Finishing up strongly among no end of series was this third issue of Dynamite Entertainment’s mini series featuring Ian Fleming’s most famous character. Warren Ellis, who has written everything from “Transmetropolitan” to “Planetary” to “Astonishing X-Men” and even a line of “Marvel anime” series for G4, brings both a contemporary yet timeless take on agent 007 in “Vargr”, which wraps up the year at its midway point. Teamed with sensational action artist Jason Masters and colorist Guy Majors, this series provides all of the pulse pounding excitement and intricate mystery of one of James Bond’s films within twenty comic book pages a month.
As with many things the iconic spy gets into, it is the simplest missions which soon become the most complicated. After a strain of particularly deadly narcotics begin to hit London’s streets, Bond is sent off to Berlin to make contact with that branch of MI6 and cut off the supply at the source. In short order he barely survives an attack by the cybernetic Dharma Reach before getting a lead from Slaven Kurjack, who happens to be the head of a cybernetics company. Unfortunately, Mr. Kurjack has more secrets than he lets on, and he’s hardly about to let a legendary spy sniff around his turf for very long. Once more, Bond finds himself caught in a deadly trap as another of Kurjack’s assassins targets his Berlin home base. With every attempt on his life that he survives, Bond finds himself with fewer allies and even fewer options.
Much like the first issue, much of this installment chronicles action scenes. In this case, it offers a look at Bond surviving a warehouse full of vicious drug dealers while Mr. Masters rubs out all of his MI6 contacts. This duality allows the reader to see how two similar characters act or react to their various missions. Bond relies on using his surroundings to his advantage as well as experience, while Mr. Masters relies on endless brutality and the element of surprise. This allows the artist to go to town with such sequences, and both Masters and Majors do so with cinematic quality. Much like storyboards, the reader can see every motion and act as if it was moving on the page. In terms of the script, Ellis is wisely mixing this up between Bond’s British bosses who are far used to his exploits and dismiss him versus contacts elsewhere who see him as a mysterious relic (or legend) of another time. Bond’s ability to coldly survive the impossible even gives his enemies disbelief! While it was a shame to lose some interesting characters from the previous issue, the life of James Bond is often a dangerous and lonely one, as those few of his loves who have survived can tell.
As for Bond himself, Ellis seems more inspired by the character from the novels than the films. His appearance is closer to that from the books than any actor, and he speaks more through action and words as well. Yet the threat he is up against is on par with many he has faced in motion pictures, such as advanced warrior cyborgs. In this way, Ellis has helped craft a world for Bond which is both familiar to fans yet offers them many unexpected turns.
For the moment, Dynamite Entertainment only plans for this to be a mini series. It is smart to avoid having Bond overstay his welcome, but so far this series has proven worthy enough to justify an ongoing series, or at least a sequel. Until then, fans of 007 should bide their time between films with this utterly riveting and exciting comic book series!
Below is an honorable mention. It is a perfectly fine comic, but it didn’t quite have Bond’s golden eye this time.
Spider-Man 2099 #5: Between crossovers and a relaunch which teased a “woman in a refrigerator” moment, 2015 has not been a good year for the newest volumes of the late 21st century web-slinger that Peter David helped build. Fortunately, this fifth issue (only his second in two years) by David, artist Will Sliney and colorist Rachelle Rosenberg is easily the best in months. It likely has something to do with it being a simple action issue which offers an element from Miguel’s past as well as a partner who gives him something to do besides growl about revenge. Having accidentally unleashed the cybernetic gunman Qweeg (who is an altered version of his old enemy Venture from 1992’s “Spider-Man 2099 #2”), both Miguel and the new Captain America of 2099 have to protect civilians of midtown Manhattan from him and figure out how to send him back. The mystery of who this new Cap is is slowly revealed, and she makes quite an adept partner for Miguel as they take on Qweeg in Time’s Square. Unfortunately, after force is after him, seeking an ally in their terrorist plans. The action is fast paced, and the banter between Miguel and Cap works better than anything this volume of the series has presented so far. Although nowhere close to as innovative and satisfying as the first five issues from last year, at the very least this issue is presentable enough to justify some (but only some) optimism that this series will find its groove in 2016.