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James Bond: Agent of Spectre (review)

Writer: Christos Cage

Artist: Luca Casalanguida

Dynamite Comics, October 2021

Bond stories tend to be formulaic. This one, entitled James Bond: Agent of Spectre, is not. This is the promotional copy:

There’s a civil war brewing within SPECTRE. An upstart American member of the international criminal organization is attempting a coup, threatening to depose Ernst Stavro Blofeld. She’s on guard against Blofeld’s men, so to take her out, Blofeld recruits a wild card – James Bond! With Blofeld threatening the life of Bond’s friend Felix Leiter as leverage, Bond agrees…but he has a plan to use this internal strife to bring SPECTRE down once and for all. Will he succeed, or is this a dark path from which even 007 can’t return?

James Bond’s perennial adversary is Ernst Blofeld, the senior partner in the criminal organisation, Spectre. In this story, Spectre is undergoing what those of us who work in business environments would recognise as a management restructure. Blofeld’s challenge comes from Titania Jones, a bright, wealthy, resourceful criminal mastermind. Bond and Jones seduce each other, in a manner of speaking, as if fulfilling the emotionless needs of arachnids. For Bond the sex is recreational, but for Jones, it is an opportunity to scratch Bond’s back and insert a small tracking device. Bond’s historical romantic partners have not ever been so ruthless.

The cold analysis continues throughout the entire title. Indeed, for an action comic, James Bond: Agent of Spectre is replete with dialogue. The characters try to seduce each other with words, arguments, compelling debate. it is as much a battle of persuasion as it is a contest of violence which is a hallmark of Bond stories. Intentionally or not, the characters to an extent sound the same. Bond drops the odd “blimey” and other English idiosyncrasies and Blofeld is impatient, but otherwise a lot of the dialogue could have been switched out between the characters. We do not see this as a flaw. It is apparent that the protagonists are all cut from the same cloth. They could be substituted for each other, in terms of their method. It is only their drivers which differ. For Blofeld, it is preservation of his primacy; for Jones, it is to seize power; and for Bond, it is (as he notes) Queen and country.

Bond’s motivations however are called into question, especially during his confrontation with his only real friend, Felix Leiter. Shooting Leiter in the head underscores that he is now willing to look after himself and is a double agent, and take up Blofeld’s offer of a retirement in the sum of EUR15 million. But in doing so, Bond also removes one of Blofeld’s levers against him. Blofeld has threatened Leiter’s life if Bond did not comply. With Leiter gone, at Bond’s own hand, Blofeld can threaten Bond with nothing.

The triangular nature of the conflict could be difficult to follow in other circumstances, but writer Christos Cage does a wonderful job of keeping the plot line clean of static. Artist Luca Casalanguida has a style vaguely reminiscent of David Mazzuchelli (a high compliment) and does an impeccable job of dealing with a stage filled with many players.

We enjoyed this title, and we have enjoyed most of James Bond comics published in recent years. Under our category of Espionage, we have reviewed a number of James Bond stories published by Dynamite Comics, under license. These are:

  1. Vargr, published in 2016 – Lord Cardigan’s Sabre: “James Bond 007: Vargr” 1-5 (review) – World Comic Book Review
  2. Hammerhead, published in 2017 –
  3. Felix Leiter, published in 2017 – James Bond 007: Felix Leiter (Hardcover) (Review) – World Comic Book Review
  4. James Bond Case Files Volume 1, published in 2018 – Ian Fleming’s James Bond 007 Case Files Volume 1 (review) – World Comic Book Review
  5. Casino Royale, published in 2018 – Ian Fleming’s James Bond: Casino Royale (Review) – World Comic Book Review
  6. James Bond Origin, in 2018 – Ian Fleming’s James Bond Origin #1 (review) – World Comic Book Review