James Bond has always been a franchise that engaged with science fiction without ever becoming science fiction. It was a series that would gladly play with high-tech gadgets and super weapons but only when they made for a bombastic set piece. After all, this is a series historically written by and from the perspective of an imperialist and maybe turning that dark mirror of science fiction would require a level of self-awareness that the franchise doesn’t have. Well, that is until Warren Ellis decided to bring the science fiction to James Bond.
Ellis has taken the “blunt instrument” misanthrope of the Fleming novels and dropped him into the setting of a modern Eon film that’s has some of Warren Ellis’ brand of sci-fi weirdness thrown in. His previous story arc, VARGR, involved Bond tracking an influx of heroin laced with a flesh eating virus and which brought him into the path of a Berlin-based cybernetic prosthetic company—and ultimately telling a story about the darkness that’s often found in a human’s beings need for control.
His new story line, Eidolon, has Bond extracting an undercover MI6 accountant with a blown cover out of Los Angeles. A simple plan, right?
One of my favorite things about Ellis’ current run is that he’s eschewed the exotic locales classic to the series and placed Bond in places familiar and undeniably Western. Places we might typically associate with the assumed safety of modernity become horrific mousetraps for Bond to survive through and transforming the Western city into a new type of tomb. In issue eight, LAX and LA suburbs become back drops for tense and brutal action scenes. Action that is totally devoid of clever quips and stay almost frighteningly silent. This Bond’s a killer and nowhere else is this clearer than as Bond snaps an unconscious man’s neck in an airport elevator.
If I sound like I’m avoiding talking much about the characters and story, it’s for good reason. The story is filled with some fun character interaction and thrilling turns and while definitely not a good jumping-off point, James Bond #8 is a solid affirmation of the quality of the series. While I’m disappointed that the series isn’t as idea-driven as the rest of Ellis’ more recent work, it still hits all the notes I want from a Bond story.
For people who are put off by James Bond as that prototypical Western male power fantasy—I can’t say this will persuade you. As much of the DNA in this story belongs to Warren Ellis, it’s still undeniably James Bond. Those previously bothered by the power fantasy aspects about an Imperialist man travelling to foreign places to kill foreign people, sleep with beautiful strangers, only to leave with a path of destruction behind him, this won’t convert you.
But if you’re a long-time fan, Dynamite’s James Bond run has easily been the best James Bond movie I’ve seen in years.
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James Bond #8 Writer: Warren Ellis Artist: Jason Masters Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment Price: $3.99 Format: Ongoing; Print/Digital