|JAMES BOND No. 2, December 2015|
In many ways this second instalment of a “brand new six-issue arc” “created by Warren Ellis and Jason Masters for Dynamic Comics” follows the exact same formula as that employed by the vast majority of the early “James Bond” motion pictures produced by Albert “Cubby” Broccoli and Harry Saltzman. To begin with its narrative starts with the secret agent being met in Berlin by what initially he believes to be “other people in our company” yet who predictably turn out to be deadly enemy assassins, and ends with the British Intelligence Officer besting his opponents by using his brawn and fighting savvy, as opposed to the overused technical gadgetry of the latter-day films. The storyline even includes 007 ‘allowing’ a strikingly attractive femme fatale to escape (presumably so as to allow a future rematch), as well as him partaking in a polite professional meeting with the very chap who's actually just tried to have the serviceman cold-bloodedly slain.
So many similarities to past adventures must arguably have given many of this publication’s 21,254 readers an ominous feeling of déjà vu with the Essex-born writer’s script and this sense of dread probably could only have been heightened when the murderous Dharma Reach, supposedly a child of “Eighties hippie parents in Vermont”, displays the classic hallmarks of Ian Fleming’s first fictional villain, Doctor Julius No, by having metal prosthetic hands. Fortunately however, in spite of such foreboding familiarity, the plot to “Vargr” does still contain just enough innovativity, such as the “bad batch” of drugs which quickly turns its users into decomposing corpses, to make it a somewhat fresh, entertaining read.
Indeed Ellis’ ‘modernisation’ of the secret agent’s world, a place where “an actual OO officer… [is] like some rare species you only learned of from fairy tales”, is rather reassuring and amply demonstrates that the Sidewise Award-winner, “himself a fan of 007” and “no stranger to spy-thriller stories”, intends to pen a version of the “iconic British spy” which is faithful to Bond being little more than a “blunt instrument” as opposed to some sort of super-hero “bristling with guns and covered in scars.”
Sadly this comic is let down, somewhat badly in places too, by Jason Masters’ occasionally dynamic but oft-times awkward-looking one-dimensional artwork. Admittedly the former “Batman: The Dark Knight” penciller can clearly draw an incredibly frantic, action-packed scrap in the back of a moving car and imbues this fast-paced sequence with all the desperation one would expect as the agent is slowing being choked to death. But his subsequent illustrations, such as the well-dressed agent's appointment with Slaven Kurjak and Cal's grisly demise back in his London flat look amateurishly sketched at best.