James Bond: The Body Issue 1 – simple, classic Bond with a great storytelling twist.
James Bond: The Body Issue 1
Written by Ales Kot, art by Luca Casalanguida, by Valentina Pinto, letters by Thomas Napolitano.
Dynamite’s Bond series has so far featured writing from Warren Ellis, Andy Diggle, Benjamin Percy, James Robinson and others for the series, contributing a set of stand-alone limited series and one-shots. And it’s all been rather good, exploring the spy and his world in a fashion that’s a perfect mix of the Fleming books and the modern, brutal Bond we’ve seen in the films since Daniel Craig took on the role.
Now it’s the turn of Ales Kot with the six-issue series The Body. Each issue is a stand-alone thing, but the whole series has a connection to be revealed as the issues unfold to the finale.
Fittingly, given the series title, this issue opens with Bond’s body, beaten and bruised, as Bond sits on the doctor’s table at the start of a post-mission medical exam.
And yes, Bond is going to tell the doctor, and the reader, just what happened in this mission that resulted in this latest set of injuries. The whole issue is Bond recounting this particular mission, his voiceover accompanying the visuals that give us all the details.
It’s Bond on the hunt for a potential assassin at a French embassy reception. But the intel’s vague, and Bond has no idea who he’s looking for. All he has to go on is instinct, looking for a face that doesn’t fit, body language out of place, anything at all. We get a classic Fleming set-up, of Bond having to rely of his spycraft to quickly assess the room, spot the assassin amongst the guests, and take action. (Oh, and a nice touch here, just for a change, Bond isn’t a guest here, no black tie for him, just waiters uniform.)
The Body has a cinematic delivery, very widescreen comics, minimal dialogue, with most of the words coming through Bond’s voiceover, telling the doctor treating his wounds a version of events. But the art tells us something very different. Where Bond’s version to the doctor is clean, simple, and very much plays to the doctor’s expectations of what a spy’s mission is like, the art tells us something totally different. Bond’s spinning a tale, and the truth is far more brutal, all one on one fighting, dirty, bloody, fists and knives and blood.
It’s a clever device from Kot and Casalanguida, playing on the deception Bond has to engage in, no matter where he is, mission or not. It also lets Kot play with the reader’s perceptions, as well as getting in a couple of fine nods to the old excesses of the Bond movies…
Doc: “I bet this ends with at least one speedboat explosion. And possibly also a helicopter.”
Bond: “What’s your security clearance again?”
Doc: “just lie to me when you need to.”
Bond: “I couldn’t. You’re too much fun. I’ll simply omit facts.
Bond: “I chased him. There was a bomb. A car. He had a support system. Six professionals.
And yes, there was a helicopter.”
Doc: “Ha! I knew it.”
And Bond does. He omits almost all of the facts bar the bare minimum. Playing to the medics idea of what a spy’s life is like, while leaving out the brutality we see on the page. And that’s the very clever part of The Body. Taking that deception of the super-spy and transposing it to even something as simple as relaying a mission to the doc patching him up. Here’s the conversation above with the art this time…
The disparity between what Bond tells the doctor and what we see on the page is what makes The Body work. That, and the neat twist in the tale, gives what could easily be an all too quick and unsatisfying read a depth that you find yourself thinking about after the final page is done.
The rest of the series sounds like it will feature a similar setup, with Bond on the doc’s bench once more, with more false tales told, as his wounds are patched up again, and again. It’s a really well-done take on Bond, capturing the essence of the spy as Fleming wrote him.
And that Fleming link is certainly carried through in Casalanguida’s artwork. I’m immediately reminded of the work of the great, sadly not too well known John Watkiss, with the sharp, angular lines and bold strokes. And this is a Bond looking every inch the version Fleming imagined, that Hoagy Carmichael look that’s classic without echoing any of the movie versions.
If Kot and Casalanguida keep this up with the rest of the series, this could turn into something very good indeed.