James Bond, 007: Black Box #1
Benjamin Percy, Rapha Lobosco, Chris O’Halloran,
(cover art by John Cassaday)
Another new comic book day and the start of another new James Bond mini-series from Dynamite. We’ve had several of these now, including the spin-off Felix Leiter series running at the moment (first issue reviewed here), since Warren Ellis set the template for Dynamite’s new comics take on Bond. The stories, all by different writers and artists, aren’t connected as such (so you can dip into any of them even if you haven’t read the others), but they do all seem to be in the same continuity, and that’s a good sign, it means Dynamite are making sure there’s a coherence here, establishing a solid-feeling Bondverse for the new comics incarnation (Bond being no stranger to comics, of course!). And I’ve got to say I’ve been enjoying the hell out of all of them so far: modern day setting, nods to the films but more in line with the character from the Fleming novels, tweaked for today’s audience.
Percy and Lobosco’s take starts almost like a Bond movie, with an action-packed short opening sequence, the sort you usually get in Bond films before the main titles, a little appetiser, and it’s a nice touch here, showing they have a feel for how they know most of us picture a Bond adventure. We kick off in proper Bond globe-trotting style, here in the French Alps, in heavy snow, dangling in a cable-car before leaping out onto the snowy slopes, enhanced vision from his special snow goggles. Bond is on a mission to terminate a hitman who has killed several UK targets – he’s there to assassinate an assassin, lurking in the heavy snow, assembling the sniper rifle, lining up on the window of a wooden ski lodge… But someone else also has the same man in their sights, leading to an exhilarating, fast-paced ski chase sequence.
Back in London in M’s office, in best Bond tradition he’s told to forget about the mysterious second assassin and get on with a new assignment, operation Black Box, Bond, the ultimate analogue spy operative being used to crack a digital information hacking group who have grabbed sensitive information from various authority figures, which could be used for blackmail. “So they’ve dug up some filthy images, evidence of an affair. Are you sure the tabloids aren’t too blame?” Bond asks M. As we all know though, it’s more serious than creepy tabloids like the disgraced News of the World hacking personal accounts, the cyber side of things now as much, if not more, of a threat to national security than the physical threats, and Bond is dispatched on his new mission to Japan, where in another nice touch he meets Major Boothroyd who supplies him with a range of Q department technical toys (and again that builds the anticipation of how Bond will use these in action later, always an enjoyable part of the Bondverse).
Naturally you know Bond isn’t going to forget about the other assassin in the snow, the one who got away, and you also suspect they may have a role to play in the new mission somewhere down the line. But that’s what we’d expect in a Bond story and here Percy has crafted one which follows those traditional Bond tropes quite closely, feeling quite cinematic in parts (aided by Lobosco’s artwork – I imagine he was grinning as he drew that ski slope chase sequence and having fun with it). Which isn’t to say it is running on rails or being too predictable, rather that the writer is paying homage to the regular beats of a Bond story while still adding new rhythms of his own to those beats. It’s a cracking, fast-paced, proper slice of Bond right from the start, and hugely enjoyable.
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