Dynamite’s JAMES BOND #4 out this week, kicks off a new mission for the world’s greatest super-spy as he tracks down eco-terrorists that hide their secret plans in counterfeit art. It turns out Bond is not the only agent on the hunt. Will he get the plans first? Let’s find out.
JAMES BOND #4 begins a new arc for the titular super spy by Vita Ayala and Danny Lore. It’s a relatively complete story that nicely sets up what’s to come in future issues. The progression of the plot holds very true to the spirit of a standard James Bond adventure. However, a few missteps keep this book from elevating above just ‘good’.
Afua Richardson has crafted an elegant cover for this issue. Bond’s pose is emblematic of his character as portrayed on screen. Bond is refined and arrogant, with just the right hint of charm. Richardson expertly paints the supporting character of Brandy Keys as both attractive and dangerous.
Oddly, the lighting comes in at angles that don’t fit the character poses. For example, there’s a star-like light source just above Brandy’s left shoulder that creates a yellow/orange glow projecting down and to the right. Brandy is in between the light and James, yet the light hits James’ entire left side. It’s a nitpick, but there appear to be several light sources that repeat the same problem multiple times on one cover. It’s enough to lessen what would be an otherwise great cover.
Ayala and Lore have put together an excellent mystery for James Bond to solve, requiring guile over shootouts. Ayala and Lore really did their homework researching Shakespeare and Brodeur to give this story a degree of authenticity in dealing (no pun intended) with the art world. There’s also a great setup with the main villain that may not be a villain at all, keeping the door open for more mystery-solving in the issues to come.
Where the story struggles is matching some of the dialog to the action that’s happening in the panels. For example, there’s a scene where Bond is engaging with some flirtatious banter with M’s secretary (Miss Money Penny?), and their banter ends when two men leave M’s office. The dialog midway through that conversation doesn’t at all match what’s happening and is confusing in context. It’s the type of mismatch that makes you have to go back and read it again a few times, yet you still wind up saying to yourself, “What? Huh? I don’t get it”.
There’s another scene where James Bond is taking a smoke break outside while eavesdropping on two henchmen. Bond flicks away his finished cigarette, and that somehow alerts the henchman that he’s a person of interest. Again, “What? Huh? I don’t get it.” You get the feeling Bond was supposed to have said or done something in that panel that creates the tip-off, but there’s nothing there. Overall, you get a distinct impression of a disconnect between writer and artist.
The coloring by Roshan Kurichiyanil is very muted and bland. There are several panels, and even a few pages, where the skin tone of the characters matches the wall in the background. Kurichiyanil’s coloring choices give the entire book a sepia saturation that keeps the dark scenes from getting lost in shadow, but on the whole, nothing pops, and the reader has to lean exclusively on the inks for visual interest. Otherwise, the characters almost look like they are part of the furniture.
Ariana Maher nailed the lettering in this issue. It’s especially difficult to carry on an enactment of Othello in the background when a Bond story is happening in the foreground. Maher keeps the multiple dialog streams clear for the reader.
Erica D’Urso does a good job constructing the world of Bond. The social events look opulent and high class. The bad guys look dangerous, and the heroes look suave and sophisticated.
That said, there are three areas (One small, one medium, and one large) where the art sticks out like a sore thumb, and not in a good way.
The small issue is regarding Brandy’s hands. In several panels, the hands appear very thick and over-sized. In some cases, her hands are bigger than her face and as thick as animal paws. It’s a small issue, but it looks so out of place on Brandy’s thin, statuesque frame that it becomes a distraction. Work on matching the hands to the frame.
The medium issue is with the fight scenes. The action sometimes doesn’t make sense in how they flow. In one case, a henchman is standing between Bond and a table with a coffee machine on it. The henchman swings and punches Bond, pushing him back. In the very next panel, Bond grabs the coffee machine and throws it at the henchman several feet away. How did Bond get past the henchman to get at the coffee machine? How was the henchman standing between Bond and the table in one panel and instantly standing several feet away in the next? The fights are dynamic, but the movements defy logic. It will help if the fight scenes are choreographed first before drawing takes place.
The largest issue is a design choice for one specific character, Miss Masters, the new tech scientist on Q’s team. It’s unclear if this was D’Urso’s choice or if the character was drawn according to the writers’ specifications. No scientist with any credibility would ever enter a lab environment wearing high heels and a micro mini cocktail dress. A weapons lab is a hazardous environment, and every lab abides by a standard set of rules for clothes to wear for safety reasons. D’Urso introduces what could be an interesting character and de-legitimizes her all at the same time. By her design, Miss Masters says “I don’t know what I’m doing, and my peers won’t take me seriously, but I look cool.” Design the characters to match what they’re doing.
JAMES BOND #4 is a good story with plenty of mystery that keeps the reader wondering what will happen next. That’s the goal of any good story. If the creative team can work to improve the structural flaws, this has a chance of becoming a keeper.