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‘James Bond Vol.1: VARGR’ (review)


James Bond Vol. 1: VARGR
Written by Warren Ellis
Illustrated by Jason Masters
Published by Dynamite Entertainment
ISBN: 9781606909010 | Price $19.99
Release date: June 22, 2016

Those fans of 007 may not have gotten all they wanted from Daniel Craig’s most recent performance of the MI-6 agent in Spectre last year, but may very well be delighted at what Warren Ellis has been able to do in the comic series from Dynamite.

Ian Fleming Publications and the Fleming Estate commissioned Ellis to approach the character for comics stemming from a licensing deal with Dynamite. The first story art is collected here in one volume, VARGR. Currently on stands is Ellis’ second arc with artist Jason Masters. More writers and artists including Andy Diggle (Green Arrow) will be brought on later this year to fill out more of 007’s modern comic continuity.

This first story arc collected in the hardcover volume of VARGR reads like a good Fleming novel or Broccoli-produced film of the modern age.

No, our Bond isn’t shaking and stirring Vespers, preferring the Fleming-approved Kentucky bourbon to the martini, and the comic book James Bond is more traditional looking (read: not blonde)!. In fact, Master’s agent carries himself tall and cocksure, svelte and monotone. Ellis brings to life all we expect from a great James Bond tale, from new Q gadgets to flirting with Moneypenny.

Who better than Warren Ellis to chronicle the adventures of a 00 agent? His intricate knowledge of military history and espionage research pays off here. This is a movie, essentially, in the form of a six issue story.

When Londoner punks start dying off because their blow has been stepped on by an evil German scientists, Bond is saddled with getting to the bottom of this nasty drug trade. 008 has been murdered, and Bond is left to pick up the pieces of 008’s caseload.

In order to justify the 00 program to his higher ups, M must put Bond in harm’s way, but not without some handicaps. Bond isn’t allowed to travel with his guns because of new British regulations, but is able to meet up with his Walther P99 on his rendezvous. The tête-à-tête between the Quartermaster (Q!) is of course hilarious and full of mutual ego jabs.

After arriving in Berlin and the Berlin office, Bond quickly susses out that not everyone is as they seem and faces dangerous enemies that operate with the help of robotic enhancements.

Clues lead Bond to discovering the secrets of the tainted drugs and the cyborg hands but not without blood being shed on both sides.

You’ll see Q’s deadly bullet designed for maximum exit wounds in action, and it should be noted that a great storytelling device is used by Ellis and Masters during the fight scenes. Fight scenes are typically very broad, splash-page type affairs that can be difficult to follow. These guys zoom in on the action and the cartooning allows for the action to be read very easily.

A favorite little trick used are cutout panels showing X-ray versions of punches impacting (fist to elbow bones — yeee-ouch!) and bullets entering and exiting the body. Very cool and unique stuff. It is on par with the Samnee/Waid Daredevil storytelling for Matt’s radar sense.

Our main badman fulfills the checklist of great Bond villains. He’s got a weird thing (robot hands)!, he may have started out leaning toward the light but somewhere along the line things got tainted for him. The third act reveals of what true evil is capable of as our villain explains his plan is very cinematic and on an unexpected playing field. I don’t want to mention that the story unintentionally borrows from some story elements of Batman v Superman but that has to be chalked up to pure coincidence. (No, it isn’t Martha.)

Reading the collection was a better experience for me than it was waiting for the issues, but regardless if you can experience this book, please do. Spy fans will love it! If you can’t wait for the rumored reboot of Goldeneye for your next generation console, get your fix here with the Fleming-blessed Dynamite James Bond 007 books.

As a regular Wednesday comic store buyer, I was glad I took a chance on this and will continue to recommend this sleeper book. Hopefully with more stories and mini-series planned, the James Bond comics will be a shot in the arm for a great smaller publisher like Dynamite. With Bond and Ellis they have a perfect match of creator and content and the success of this paring should be at the top of everyone’s reading list.

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