James Bond 007: Review: VARGR #1

JamesBond01Written by Warren Ellis

Art by Jason Masters

Dynamite, out now

After getting revenge for the death of a fellow agent, 007 is assigned to take on one of 008’s outstanding cases…

There’s an enjoyable chase through the snowy streets of Helskinki at the start of this return to the comic strip medium for Ian Fleming’s super secret agent, with the art concentrating more on the killer Bond is chasing than 007 himself, followed by a great reveal of Jason Masters’ version of Bond, which has to wait until the ninth page. We’re definitely in literary rather than cinematic Bond territory (the involvement of Ian Fleming Publications rather than EON is clear from the indicia), and Masters’ Bond physically hearkens back to the newspaper strips of Horak and Jim Lawrence – all of them derived from the few pieces of physical description that Fleming provided.

After a brief diversion to a Brixton squat (whose relevance becomes apparent later), we’re over to Vauxhall Cross, and an undestroyed MI6 headquarters, for Bond’s briefing with M, preceded by some flirting with Moneypenny, and then a discussion with the Quartermaster – not Q, contrary to some reviews. This feels like the Major Boothroyd of Fleming’s novels, suitably updated as all the elements are, with his contempt for weaponry that he doesn’t think is suitable, and introducing a new rule for this series of Bond adventures: 007 and his fellow 00 agents can’t use or carry a weapon within the UK.

James Bond 1 altBond is being sent to Berlin on a mission, for which he’s briefed by Chief of Staff Bill Tanner in a café, and it’s here that we get more of a feel for Ellis’ take on Bond than previously – there’s a snobbery to him that we’ve not seen outside Fleming for some time. And before the issue ends, we get a brief idea of who the villain will be (or at the very least, his henchman)…

Although the first few pages feel like the pre-credits of a screen Bond, the majority of the story definitely has the pacing and air of a Fleming story. Ellis has updated things in a similar way that Jeffery Deaver did for Carte Blanche, although – as far as we can tell at the moment – Bond has the backstory created for him by Fleming, albeit in 2015. Masters’ artwork is strongest in the opening section, but the placement of Bond with M, the Quartermaster and Moneypenny in their various scenes together nicely sells the respective relationships.

Although this may not seem like a compliment, it’s meant as one: this feels like the best graphic continuation of Bond’s contemporary adventures since the newspaper strips seen in the Daily Express and Daily Star (and now reprinted by Titan). I am looking forward to seeing where Ellis and Masters take Bond next…

Verdict: An assured interpretation of a 21st century 007. 8/10

Paul Simpson

Read our review of SPECTRE here

Paul Simpson is the author of Bond vs. Bond: The Many Faces of 007

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