James Bond is a scotch and six gummy bears away from being Sterling Archer in James Bond: Vargr. Though that might sound like harsh criticism for Dynamite Entertainment’s newest James Bond comic, the first Bond comic to be published in 20 years, it should actually be taken as high praise. Written by Warren Ellis (Transmetropolitan, Planetary) with art by Jason Masters (Batman Incorporated), Vargr draws inspiration from the original Ian Fleming novels, dropping Fleming’s Bond, flaws and all, into the modern world.
The comic starts as most Bond novels or films usually do, with 007 at the tail end of a mission. Though it’s initially not explained why, Bond is relentlessly pursuing a tattooed man through the snow-covered nighttime streets of Helinski, Finland. Masters and colorist Guy Major do a fantastic job capturing the frigid, spartan atmosphere of a city asleep, giving the chase between Bond and his prey a real sense of intimacy. However, it’s when the chase comes to an abrupt halt that the comic reveals the type of Bond we’re getting. The violence that follows is fast, graphic and bloody, firmly establishing the overall tone of the book and the incarnation of Bond we’ll be following for the rest of the story.
As Judi Dench’s M famously said in 1995’s GoldenEye, Bond is “a sexist, misogynist dinosaur,” and Ellis revels in bringing that very accurate statement to life in Vargr. The Bond in this first issue is very much a violent, sarcastic misogynist, a character many would normally dislike if it wasn’t for the fact that he manages to save the world at the end of the day. He’s cold, with obvious sociopathic tendencies that make him an unlikable protagonist, but at the same time impossible to not want to follow.
Though Ellis works hard to separate his colder, nastier version of Bond from the one that we’ve seen in films like Skyfall, recognizable hallmarks from the franchise itself are still present if slightly more subdued. Bond’s flirtatious office visits with Miss Moneypenny are intact, as is his cantankerous, though good natured relationship with MI6’s gadget master, Q, who still takes pleasure in criticizing Bond’s taste in weaponry. As expected, Ellis’ dialogue during these scenes is exceptionally well-written, perfectly capturing the voices of the characters. Out of the entire cast, M has changed the most, appearing to be more of an overworked, pencil-pushing bureaucrat than the stern, but caring father/mother figure to Bond that fans of the franchise have grown accustomed to. Though Ellis’ reinterpretation of M might be slightly off-putting, it is through M that we learn of a particularly interesting sub-plot about the status of the 00 program within MI6, a sub-plot that is sure to factor into the overall arc of the story.
Despite the solid character interactions and world building, the first issue spends little time on the central plot. We get some setup, with the introduction of a new villain with an appropriately bizarre medical condition and Bond’s mission to prevent a new type of illicit drug from reaching the United Kingdom, but that’s really it when it comes to setting up the main story.
Though this more violent, misogynist take on 007 could prove vexing to readers who dislike following a rather unpleasant protagonist, Ellis is careful to never ennoble Bond or condone his callous behavior. As it stands, James Bond: Vargr #1 is an enjoyable and compelling read, offering a version of Bond that is probably the closest to Fleming’s original character.
What about you reader? What do you think of the first issue for James Bond: Vargr? Let us know in the comments below!