A character as iconic as Ian Fleming’s Agent 007, James Bond, absolutely is worthy of being adapted to the comics book medium. There have been stabs over the years, some more successful as others, but Dynamite’s approach once they acquired the license to the property has produced some pretty intriguing successes, and none more so than James Bond: Hammerhead. This trade collects the six issue miniseries by writer Andy Diggle and artist Luca Casalanguida, and delivers exactly the kind of stylish and cooly ruthless thrills and action you expect from 007.
The story begins with M assigning Bond to investigate and if possible, eliminate, a new shadowy threat called Kraken. Though no one knows Kraken’s identity, the terrorist’s aims, which involve targeting Britain’s nuclear arsenal through attacking a large weapons manufacturer, puts Kraken directly in 007’s sights. Or is it Bond who is in the crosshairs?
Diggle and Casalanguida craft a story that, from the start, feels like a classic Bond plot, whether you’re talking the Fleming novels or the iconic films. But the creators clearly are leaning more towards the stripped-down and lean style of the novels rather than the occasionally bombastic and over-the-top attributes of the films. That’s a smart move, as their story feels like a deadly serious and adult spy-thriller. It may not have the gravitas of Le Carre, but makes up for it with hard-hitting action set pieces that deliver thrills and plenty of cool moments suffused with violence and high stakes. The virtue of these comics is that you aren’t constrained with keeping within a continuity or answerable to movie studio overly protective of their brand. The Bond in this story is a charming but deadly serious professional, a man whose sensual appetites are more than affectations but are survival mechanisms.
Lean economy is the watchword of James Bond: Hammerhead, and there’s really nothing fussy on display nor anything distracting us from the relentless drive of the story. Bond’s attire alternates between a simple cool black suit or tux, and tactical gear for the deadlier side of his trade. He’s charming but never smarmy, quippy without being cheesy, and serious without being bleak. The story effectively modernizes him, crafting a story that feels like James Bond without tripping all over itself to try for relevance through plumbing Bond’s emotional depths or over-emphasizing a grim tone that begs us to take it seriously. Instead, the script is simply focused with laser-like precision on telling a contemporary, fast-paced, stripped-down espionage thriller. That focus pays off with a straight-forward, but rewarding, experience.
Casalanguida’s art is a great match for the story. He style isn’t fussy either, favoring clean lines and strong layouts that keep the action clear and easy to follow. His Bond is a classically handsome depiction that accentuates 007’s lethal charms. He’s not afraid of using atmospheric lighting, but it’s always with a clear motivation, so if Bond is in shadow it’s because he’s in a shadowy environment, not an affection to look cool. The series has a lot of style, but it’s all motivated and organic and logical, which I think suits the matter-of-fact attributes of the story. His restraint on that kind of stuff makes moments where atmosphere is used, such as a great moment where a thug enters a darkened room to discover an armed 007 sitting in a chair, cooly waiting for him the shadows, resonate all the more.
I thoroughly enjoyed James Bond: Hammerhead, and if anyone asks me if there’s a good recent 007 comic to help satiate that Bond-sized hankering for stylish action, I know exactly which one I’d recommend. Here’s hoping that this is only the first stab at the franchise from this team, as I’d be more than willing to plunk down my hard-earned cash for further stories by this team set within the world of Bond, James Bond. 8.5/10
The James Bond: Hammerhead TPB will be released May 3, 2017