James Bond 007 #10
(Dynamite – Writer: Warren Ellis, Artist: Jason Masters)
Pick up issue 10 of James Bond. If you like spy thrillers or Warren Ellis or complex looks at well-known characters pick it up. It’s not the most “wow!” issue of anything you’ll ever read but damn if it a completely solid issue.
I hope that one day we’ll be able to reflect on Warren Ellis’s take on James Bond as one of the best. No qualifier, just simply one of the best tenure’s anyone has had with the aging spy. At a time when MGM is rumored to be trying to pay Daniel Craig $150 million dollars we need people like Ellis now more than ever.
It’s not simply that Ellis is a good writer or that Jason Masters is a good artist. It’s that both are willing to take risks. Ellis revels in the mind of mind, an old school spy who loves his sex, booze, and violence. Better still, this is perhaps only the second issue where Ellis reveals, in subtle ways, that Bond really likes his job.
I’ve made the comparison between this James Bond and Sterling Archer before but I may have been mistaken. Bond and Archer may love all the same things but Archer is childlike, silly, and even frivolous. Bond is serious. He’s passionate about his work, every aspect of his work. He loves running, shooting, and wreaking havoc but Ellis shows us a new facet of that passion, torture.
The scene is short. It’s only two pages and yet it manages to be one of the more chilling acts of violence in the entire run. The first page is four panels beautifully superimposed against the architecture of MI6’s headquarters at Vauxhall Cross. The yellowy panels are a sharp contrast to the teal and grey SIS Building and they depict an almost barren room. This may be Masters’s best single page in the entire run. At worst, it’s the best in the issue.
There’s just Bond, Tanner, and the man the intend to torture. He’s seated, naked, in a chair just above a drainage grate. Behind him is the coiled hose they will use to clean up later.
These four panels alone may have been enough. The threat of violence is present without any weapons or instruments. Tanner and Bond aren’t dressed in painter’s style coveralls for no reason.
But then the weapons are drawn. Both Bond and Tanner pull out box cutters. Fitting considering Bond has extracted this man from “Box Tunnel.” Then they proceed to torture this man.
I hesitate to call any torture “tasteful” or conducted with “tact” but Ellis and Masters come close. The composition of the panels emphasize symmetry, brutality, fear, enjoyment, and hit hard. It’s powerful to see Bond’s jaw clench in a way that says “I’m going to hurt you and maybe like it” while his words almost literally say it.
And just like that, it’s over. Drinks are poured, backs are patted, and M is debriefed. Ellis, Masters, and Bond have other places to be. There’s a country to save, an enemy to beat, and fully two thirds of the issue left to read.
Saga # 38
(Image – Writer: Brian K. Vaughan, Artist: Fiona Staples)
Goddamn it, Brian K. Vaughan.
Vaughan and Staples’ space opera about two star-crossed, inter-species lovers has already spanned over half a decade in the course of its run, and this issue alone covers roughly six months of theirs, their daughter Hazel’s, and their merry band of (tentative) allies’ war-torn lives.
Enough time for Marko and Alana’s second pregnancy to show, for the natives of Phang – the tiny planet on which our band of heroes is currently refueling their ship – to solidly intertwine their lives with those of our protagonists,’ and enough time for a seven-year-old Hazel to begin to assert her independence and give the kind of lip to her soul-bound ghost-nanny Izabel that would break any babysitter’s heart. I should know, I nannied my way through college, and one day my ward exclaimed a passionate “I DON’T LIKE YOU!” that detonated in my heart with all the devastating force of an atom bomb.
Plot-wise, while Marko and Alana are succeeding at making the best of a bad situation, Prince Robot IV is understandably focused on reuniting with his son, freelancer The Will is seeking out old allies and finding he might be more alone than he’s ever been before, and newcomer Petrichor allows her natural cynicism to cement her role as a voice of reason.
As the ongoing war between Landfall and Wreath rages on mere miles away from the main characters’ temporary resting place, Hazel makes new friends and finds the joy in dire straits as only children can, and Izabel proves her loyalty to her chosen family is unshakeable.
The issue opens with one of the funniest splash pages in a series known for shockingly witty spreads, and closes with an image that’s its equal and opposite in its savagery. And at the end, as is often the case in any war, someone we love is dead.
It should never really be a huge surprise when beloved characters die in a theater of war, fictional or otherwise. That death in battle comes suddenly, unpredictably, and inevitably should not throw any of us for a loop. And yet.
Goddamn it, Brian K. Vaughan.
X-Men ’92 #7
(Marvel—Writers: Chad Bowers & Chris Sims; Artist: Alti Firmansyah)
There should be a rating on every cover of X-Men ’92, and that rating should be “FUN”. This spin-off of the enjoyable miniseries from the messy 2015 Secret Wars crossover is such a delight to read, with an unpredictable twisting and turning plot, insanely random cameos and humor being added to the party mix. While it’s not perfect, X-Men ’92 still manages to entertain and not get caught up in the Marvel crossover miasma. I argue it’s the best X-Men comic out there too, as the other titles are still in some kind of weird holding pattern until Marvel figures out what to do with the corner of its universe not owned by Disney.
The nudge-nudge, wink-wink elements to the writing verge on grating at times, but then it’s like they give me a puppy to hold when my blood starts to boil with 90’s X-Factor popping up in a cameo. That makes brings everything go back to normal. Not only that but Chris Sims and Chad Bowers include other cameos from the Marvel Comics Island Of Misfit Toys, like former Transformer and Marvel U.K. sassy bounty hunting robot Death’s Head! Not to mention outcast mutant Brood aliens and crappy 90’s X-characters like Adam-X and Maggot being jerks and getting beat up.
Did I mention that Sims and Bowers plots are also inventive and move at a brisk speed? If you know that Lila Cheney is a teleporting intergalactic mutant rock star you already have 80% of the plot of this issue mastered. It also helps that Bowers and Sims tend to keep their story arcs down to 3 issues or less like the old days of comics. In fact I would say it’s almost more of a callback to the Claremont/Cockrum/Byrne days than it is to the Lee/Nicieza/Harras days. Sure, this may be a bid to make the series more YA friendly, but what’s the problem with that? The boneheaded mass adulteration of comics in the 90’s is what led to a lot of the problems still being fixed today.
The artwork by Alti Firmansyah has an animated cel quality to it, which recalls the popular ‘90s TV series. Would that series feature cameos by the Toadies and Flaming Lips though? While their appearances in the last two issues of this series have been good times I do find it weird that Firmansyah drew the bands as they look now, as opposed to how they looked in the 90’s. It’s a minor nitpick for what is ultimately some excellent comic book and cartooning work.
While this series stutters sometimes, overall it’s a joy to read. I can’t say that for a lot of comics being released by the Big Two, as both companies seem determined to swirl all of the things that we enjoy about their flagship characters down a giant Galactus-sized toilet. At some point an attempt needs to be made to boil down a large percentage of titles from each company down to their primary elements, and then mine what we enjoy from each title and build upon it. Not every title needs to feature Lilapalooza, or Strong Guy juggling a bunch of Multiple Men, but bonuses similar to that don’t hurt. At the end of the day it should be entertaining.