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James Bond is Doctor Who. Unkillable. Infallible. REALLY good at suits. Even if you subscribe to the number and the man being different entities, Bond is a towering colossus of old school toxic masculinity one way, and the Le Carreian ideal the other. The principled bulldog. The exhausted guardian on the wall. Licensed to kill and drowning those memories in whiskey rather than blood.
So how do you write him?
Easy. Same way you write The Doctor. By writing the people around them. And, on occasion, having them change gender.
SCREAM LOUDER, GROGNARDS. YOUR ANGUISH NOURISHES ME.
Anyhoo, Vita Ayala and Danny Lore have jumped aboard the Bond train (It’s made of explosions, fistfights and somehow, always Monaco) and their first issue is a textbook example of how to do this. We meet Bond at the top of the story with what’s basically a two page, Will Eisnerian chase sequence and mission statement (Women! Diplomats! Sex! Explosions! Parkour!) and then…
we meet these two.
Brandy Keys is an art insurance investigator. Reese is her ever so slightly dodgy buddy. Keys is both classic Bond and the sort of character Nate Ford would nod approvingly down the bar to; endlessly competent, encylopedically aware and she LIKES this game. Ayala and Lore’s script cleverly sits with these two for much of the issue and gives Eric Gapstur’s playful, light on its feet and brass knuckled art a chance to have a LOT of fun. The entire middle of the issue is basically these two artcrime nerds nerding out about artcrime. And by nerding out I mean figuring out how they’d do it.
It is CATNIP for someone who loves characters who are smart. It is CATNIP dipped in chocolate for someone who loves Leverage and, specifically, The Rashomon Job (Go, watch the entire show it’s amazing), as much as I do. Clever, artful, complex and FUN. Gapstur’s work is perfectly suited to it too, and the little Eisner flares (I love that Reese leans against a panel during the brainstorming session) the three come up with are just a joy to read. Likewise Roshaw Kurichiyanil and Rebecca Nalty’s lush colours which manage to create a sense of Bondian hyper-reality, and also correctly portray a down at heel Snooker joint. Oh also? The English slang and vernacular is on poiint, Arianna Maker’s lettering gets a ton of information across with ease and the book moves like Bond himself. Graceful, constant, and purposeful.
Which is the final thing that makes me smile about this; this story is going to plunge Bond into the world of art fraud. Brandy and Reese are at home here while he’s a velociraptor with a firearm. It’s going to be fascinating to see the two sides bounce off one another and, if it’s half as good as this door-kicking debut, we’re in for a treat.
James Bond issue 1 is ludicrously good fun and is out now (as if scheduling holds true, is issue 2!). Oh and click through to find the link to your local comic shop. Mine as ever, is here.