James Bond never gets old. Having been featured in fourteen novels written by his creator, Ian Fleming, along with even more novels from contemporary writers and (of course) twenty-four movies, the world’s most famous secret agent still gets around.
In 2014, Dynamite Comics acquired the rights to publish a new wave of James Bond comic books, once again continuing the adventures of 007. While Warren Ellis continues to write the “main” series, Andy Diggle and Luca Casalanguida have united to tell a separate, individual story in the form of the new miniseries James Bond: Hammerhead. If the first issue is any indication, there are plenty of reasons to get excited for this second Bond book.
What makes this new miniseries so fun to read is how Diggle brings a modern sensibility to Bond’s adventures. The story follows Bond as he goes after a new terrorist known only as Kraken, who looks to attack Britain’s new nuclear deterrent in an attempt to unleash anarchy upon the world. Here, Bond must go up against the kind of terrorist who uses computers to do their dirty work instead of hulking henchmen, a more apt visual for our contemporary techno-obsessed world. While Ellis’ Bond feels more like the classic Fleming version, Diggle’s take is more akin to modern spy tales like the Jason Bourne and Mission: Impossible films.
Yet the more modern feel to the narrative doesn’t take away from Diggle’s love of the character which comes out of Bond in every panel he’s in. Right from the very opening, as Bond parachutes into Caracas to take down Mister Saxon, an “ally” to Kraken, readers can feel the harshness of Bond’s personality and toughness in a fight coming out. This bluntness is very apparent when Bond willingly lets Saxon die in order to save himself, failing to get any key information on Kraken and landing him in hot water with his boss, M.
Even the elements around Bond feel quintessential to the classic novels of the sixties. Bond uses “grounded” technology like a grappling gun on missions, but still isn’t afraid to use the basics of a gun and his fists to complete his mission. Outside of his field work, Bond emanates an aura of suaveness, especially around the women in life. From his flirtations with Miss Moneypenny to meeting new potential love interest Victoria Hunt for the first time, Bond still feels like Bond.
Even with the heavy focus on spycraft and stealth missions on display here, there are still echoes of the over-the-top movies as well. Bond’s mission takes him to Dubai into the middle of an arms fair for some of the world’s richest and most powerful countries. Here, new and radical weapons are on display for buyers to purchase, including the new HAMMERHEAD rail gun which can fire missiles up to two thousand miles. While there is assuredly some sense of realism to some of these new technologies, they all feel like the brain-children of one of Bond’s more flamboyant movie villains.
Yet all of this would be moot without Casalanguida providing art duties on the book. Right from the opening panel Casalanguida renders the deeply shadowed world of espionage in all it’s blood-stained glory. One particular panel, showing Bond’s face cast in shadow, reveals the brutality Bond is capable of in a still image. Casalanguida is asked to render both fast-paced action and slower scenes of talking heads, and is able to pull both of very well. Add in Chris Blythe inserting just the right colors to each scene and the book looks just like a modern Bond film.
Despite all of this, Hammerhead does hit a few snags along the way. The most prevalent being that the pacing feels off in this single issue. Like the main Bond series, these stories work better when read in a fully collected trade, as if they are new novels for readers to consume. Bond’s adventures have never fully taken to being in a serialized format, so to read these books in single issues takes away from the forward momentum of the narrative too much.
The other issue, while not as pressing, is the question of where this story fits into the timeline with Ellis’ series. In this day of interconnected universes, both in comics and film, readers expect a certain unity to the tales they are reading. Does Hammerhead take place before Ellis’ Vargr storyline? After it? Before the Eidolon story? Some fans may not mind reading a standalone Bond tale, as the films have very loose connections to one another as well. But for fans wanting a unified world, this may pose a nagging issue during the reading process.
But James Bond will endure. Dynamite already has more stories with 007 lined up, which include adaptations of Fleming’s novels and a miniseries featuring Bond’s former CIA ally Felix Leiter. Coupled with the main series which is released monthly, Hammerhead stands as a fun read for fans of the character looking for something to tide them over until the next Bond film hits theaters.