When it was announced that Warren Ellis would be helming the new rebooted James Bond, it was fully expected that his take would vary greatly from any of the films versions of the character. True to form Ellis gave a cynical, awkward, whiskey-drinking Bond who harkens back to the original novels, or so I am told. These character decisions work just fine in practice, but the comic is still not particularly good and in a way that is uncharacteristic of even Ellis lesser works: it's extremely generic. Beyond the surface changes to the Bond mythos, many of which are clever and interesting, the story is fairly contained predictable series of twists, villains, and femme fatales. In fact, it feels a bit too much like the type of licensed work that is traditionally beneath the caliber of authors like Ellis. Issue three finds our titular hero (Bond, not 'Vargr' in case you were confused), facing the ambush we saw him led into at the end of the last chapter. This leads to Bond facing off against a group of Lebanese hit men in stylish fight scene that takes up most of the issue. Meanwhile the robot-doctor and his lackeys make a move against the agency headquarters leading to lots of blood and a very awkward sex scene though not at once.
The problem with this latter scene is that we are asked to care about a number of moving parts that do not have the charisma or specificity to support a story. Under attack are a group of characters we have met once and who have had no development, attacking them are two cybernetically enhanced hench-people (gender neutral) with equally poorly defined motivations. It's not as if Bond stories are known for their three dimensional characters, but the beautiful assassin and psychopath bruiser characters are a little too typical to be entertaining.Similarly, the big bad of the piece appears to be the afore-mentioned robot doctor who gets a single scene where he name-drops the title (again 'vargr') before going back to doing...whatever it is he does.
Bond himself is something of a blank slate hiimself. Ellis writes his cool, professional demeanor well and the fact that we don't get inside his head much is par for the course with Bond, but at the same time, we are also given no reason to view him as a worthy central character. He kills, he drinks, and he quips, but there does not seem to be much more to the fellow. Further, James Masters makes the unfortunate choice to draw Bond looking generically like a suave super spy instead of giving him a unique character design of his own. Each film actor has brought a certain presence to the roll that defines their take on Bond, Masters could have achieved the same by creating a distinct looking character instead of one who looks unfortunately identical to spy-parody Sterling Archer.
In general Masters work her is competent but unmemorable in a book that desperately needs some aspect to be memorable. The fight scenes are smooth and somewhat stylish but never as kinetic or interesting as they need to be. At a certain point they actually feel a little redundant as if they were thrown in simply fulfill the requirements of a Bond story. One can't help but imagine what sort of life Ellis-collaborator Declan Shalvey would bring to the proceedings.
All this is not to say the book is without its charm. One three panel sequence has the two office agents discussing what makes Bond tick in a manner that is both original and insightful in exactly the way the book should be. It's a brief moment, but it sparkles with the wit and creativity fans would expect from Ellis. With a little luck, the format will loosen up a little bit and let more such offbeat moments happen. As it is, I am still excited to see if things can come together as the first arc wraps up, but it's not looking hugely likely.
James Bond #3 Author: Warren Ellis Artist: James Masters Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment Price: $3.99 Release Date: 1/6/16 Format: Mini-Series; Print/Digital