James Bond: The Body #1-3: After A Promising Start, Mixed Results
by Richard Bruton
I really enjoyed issue # 1 of this new Bond series from Ales Kot and Dynamite Comics. As did Angel Carreras in his Comicon review. The idea behind James Bond: The Body was so simple, yet worked so magnificently, an exercise in minimalism done so right.
In that first issue, Bond regales his doctor with the tale of his last mission as he gets his injuries patched up. But what made it so good was the dichotomy between what Bond told the doc, feeding into his ideas of the glamorous life of a spy, and the reality, a far more brutal, bloody, and downright nasty affair. The art by Luca Casalanguida was perfect, detailing every mark on Bond’s broken and bruised body, contrasting so well with the dynamic action scenes.
I was greatly looking forward to future issues, but sadly, what began with brilliance has taken an unfortunate dive off the cliff of quality. I’d somehow missed the memo about the art for a start. I was under the impression that Casalanguida was the series artist, but instead, each issue has a different artist, and they’re nowhere near what issue #1 delivered sadly.
Antonio Fuso‘s static stylings fit well enough in issue #2, for what is essentially a pretty good, but not great, talking heads issue as Bond interrogates a biologist responsible for providing a terrorist group with a lethal virus. But Rafa Lobosco in issue #3 delivers something looking like a second-rate Eduardo Risso, completely at odds with the previous issues, and often at odds with the imagery needed.
On top of that, the stories by Kot just fail to live up to the simple and clever ideas in that first issue. Issue #2 isn’t bad at all, merely failing in direct comparison with that excellent first issue, but issue #3’s tale of Bond infiltrating a neo-nazi hate group posing as an arms dealer just comes across as bizarrely heavy-handed and off-key.
(The interrogation begins, as it should, with the unbuttoning of the jacket.
James Bond: The Body Issue 2. story by Ales Kot, art by Antonio Fuso.)
There’s much that works with issue #2’s tale of “The Brain“. The title fits, as it’s a cerebral affair, focusing on the verbal to and fro of an interrogation between Bond and his Biologist interrogatee, someone we soon realize is definitely working to her own agenda here.
The continuing focus on time proves vital, and by the story’s end it’s another example of Kot cleverly subverting our ideas of Bond. Just as with issue #1, Kot plays with our ideas of Bond the dashing super-spy. We see the suave Bond of the movies in his manner, his dress, the watch, and a very obvious sequence involving breakfast brought into the interrogation room on silver platters at the snap of his fingers. But that is in sharp contrast to what Kot is positioning as the true Bond that we see in the brutality of the finale. This is Bond the nasty bastard who’ll do what it takes, no matter how unpleasant, or violent that might be.
Fuso’s art suits the interrogation setting, the to and fro captured in a series of well-designed pages with a simple grid layout, switching back and forth between Bond and his interrogatee… but when you take in the overview, it becomes rather more inventive, rather more clever…
It works well, that focus on her face over the five panels, the restlessness of Bond, his hands fidgeting, his expression altering too much, in contrast to the biologist’s almost unchanging expression. It’s clever, reflecting the power struggle going on in the interrogation.
But then we get to issue #3, “The Gut“. And it simply doesn’t ring true to the two issues that have gone before, sadly. Like I said, Rafa Lobosco’s art comes across as very Eduardo Risso, just not anywhere near as good. But it’s the tone of the tale that really doesn’t work for me.
Bond spends the issue sat in a sauna, posing as an arms dealer, drinking with a gang of neo-nazis, tattooed, shaven-headed, a little more touchy-touchy with each other than you’d expect. Although as the leader points out…
(James Bond: The Body Issue 3, story by Ales Kot, art by Rafa Lobosco.)
As they all drink heavily, Bond quizzes them over the shipment of specialised guns they have. And then a really strange moment, a total mis-step in the tale. As Bond almost gets caught out in his cover, he switches up to tell his sob story of his wife and children’s brutal deaths being one reason he’s in the arms dealer game. It might just have worked, if not for the resulting panel of the neo-nazis in tears. I can see what Kot’s trying to do, paint these ignorant assholes as pathetic, stupid, ridiculous, but the way it’s done just completely fails to work.
And speaking of moments when Kot gets it wrong, the ending, without giving much away (you all know Bond’s going to deal with this bunch pretty damn harshly don’t you?) simply comes off as wrong. I was expecting the violence, but I wasn’t really expecting him to turn into the bloody Punisher in a final page that had me cringing for how wrong it felt and looked.
Ho hum. Three issues in and only one issue of any real greatness. I’ll hang on in there for the next issue in the hope that Kot regains his stride and that the next artist in line is more up to the task. Otherwise, I feel this one’s off the buy pile.
James Bond: The Body issues 2 and 3 are available from your local comic shop, published by Dynamite Entertainment. Written by Ales Kot, art for issue 2 by Antonio Fuso, and issue 3 by Rafa Lobosco.