JAMES BOND 007: THE WARREN ELLIS OMNIBUS, available today from Dynamite, is Warren Ellis’ take on the legendary super spy. The Omnibus is a collection of two story arcs: Vargr and Eidolon. In each arc, Bond encounters a bevvy of dangerous enemies and colorful allies, all in service to Her Majesty’s Secret Service. With decades worth of source material and pop culture iconography, does Ellis’ version of the titular character hold up?
Let’s just get this out of the way. In these collections, Warren Ellis has written peak James Bond. Bond is charming with a touch of scoundrel when interacting socially; deadly accurate and ruthless when facing the enemy. He’s a smart ass and yes, to use an old-fashioned phrase, he’s very much a ladies man. To put it simply, Ellis has taken all the best characteristics of Bond from the books and films and merged them into a dynamic and engaging personality.
In Vargr, Bond is assigned to hunt down the maker of a designer drug that’s killing it users. Bond eventually discovers the plot is bigger and more twisted than a simple drug dealer with bad product. The villains in Vargr just barely skim the line of cartoon-ish, but the action is tight, and the stakes are high for the entire island of Britain. What I appreciate most about Bond here is he takes more than a few lumps, true to his depiction in the original books. Bond doesn’t escape all attacks with perfect hair and a winning smile. when the fight scenes take place, Bond’s expertise saves the day at the cost of more than a few bruises. Excellent authenticity by Ellis.
In Eidolon, a insurgency cell connected to SPECTRE has infiltrated the highest levels of British Intelligence. Bond fights to survive assassination attempts from within his own ranks to uncover the traitors and save the agencies meant to protect Britain. There’s a bit of commentary from Ellis in this story as he raises the questions about how far we need to go for security before we trade one danger for another. Eidolon is the more paranoia-filled and tense of the two stories, and it’s imminently enjoyable as a spy thriller. The ending is not your typical smarmy-one-liner-before-he-kills-the-bad-guy ending, and big credit goes to Ellis for infusing the character with more depth than previous incarnations with the final fight.
One quick note about the female characters. Bond stories have received some criticism in the past for their depiction of female characters, either for coming across as agentless damsels-in-distress or as nothing more than a love interest for Bond. I was pleased to see that ALL the female characters in these collections are integral to the story and have complete agency when it comes to the romantic interactions with Bond. Again, kudos to Ellis for getting that bit right.
Overall, the omnibus is well-constructed, and the stories are mature without a a hint of camp in sight. This is probably the fastest omnibus I’ve ever read through. Not a single panel is wasted and the story moves.
Jason Masters’ art in Vargr is cinematic. Every panel is rendered with enough detail as to look like a cell lifted straight form a Bond film. Masters’ realistic style lends an air of maturity to the material that keeps the far-fetched elements (an assassin with robot arms?) grounded.
Likewise in Eidolon, the realist art style intensifies the cinematic qualities of the story. Every character is distinct and well-rendered such that the art enhances the writing and dialog to create three-dimensional people, even with the lesser used side characters.
Extra kudos goes to Masters for the creation of the main villains. In typical Bond story fashion, the main villain is usually distinguished by some sort of scar or deformity. In both stories, Masters draws villains with their telltale scarring but does it in such a way as to add to the backstory of each character, giving them more depth.
Favorite Panel/Page: Part of the Bond mythos is the endless ribbing he gets over his choice of personal firearm, the Walther PPK, On page 28, Q is inflicting just such a ribbing and suggests Bond choose a more meaty weapon with an appropriate shoulder holster to carry it. Without spoiling it, Bond’s comeback had me laughing at loud because it’s just such a perfect representation of the character in all the best ways.
Guy Major’s coloring is chock full of mood, particularly in the more brutal death scenes when it’s one-on-one. For example, the opening scene of Eidolon depicts the death of a henchman who’s gotten “sloppy”. The entire sequence is bathed in hues of yellow and orange to reflect the sunset lighting from outside, but it also paints a sickening atmosphere of malignancy that takes a simple murder to something more sadistic…and therefore, impactful.
I mentioned earlier this was the fastest omnibus read through I’ve ever done. The writing, art, and lettering combine to practically sprint you through the pages. That’s in part to Simon Bowland’s lettering work. Bowland makes excellent use of background space to put in word balloons only when absolutely necessary. That’s also why the stories move along so quickly. In the first eight pages of Vargr, there are exactly eight word balloons, and even then, they all show up only on the last of the first eight. Sometimes less is more, and Bowland get it absolutely right by tucking in the letters in the sparsest of corners to let the stories fly.
JAMES BOND 007: THE WARREN ELLIS OMNIBUS is a collection of tense, taut, and thrilling James Bond adventures. The quality of stories, in both the writing and art, is on par with the best James Bond films and even better than some of the original novellas. Absolutely worth your time for the price.
Author’s Note: Local Comic Shops (LCS) are going through a tough time right now with the pandemic outbreak of COVID-19. Comics fans of every flavor that care about his or her LCS should try to do what they can. So, here’s my part:
If you’re in Northern Delaware, South East Pennsylvania, or Southern New Jersey area, please take a moment to visit Captain Blue Hen Comics in Newark, DE. Say ‘hi,’ pick up a book, order a book (they’re on Comichub.com), and let them know you support them.
If you’re nowhere near that area, please find YOUR LCS using Comic Shop Locator and lend your support.
Thanks, and stay safe.