Bond. James Bond
It’s doubtful that any other three-word combination could instantly incite ideas of action, adventure, gadgets and hot women. For nearly sixty years, James Bond has been the man when it comes to larger than life action. Between the books of Ian Fleming and the subsequent film series, the lineage of Bond is undeniable. Part of that lineage are the comic strips published during the '60s and '70s. This month, Titan Books is releasing The James Bond Omnibus Volume 3, which collects the Bond series from 1968 through 1971.
The James Bond strips were a little different than standard strips of the time. Commonly, newspaper strips are encapsulated stories that run the five or six panels published each week. The Bond stories were bigger. Each strip fed into the next until an entire story arc was realized. Omnibus 3 collects the full run of The Harpies, River Of Death, Colonel Sun, The Golden Ghost, Fear Face, Double Jeopardy and Starfire. Each story is a carefully crafted spy tale that brings out the very best in James Bond. Even if you’re a fan of the films and the books, I urge you to check out these stories.
Part of what makes these stories so exciting is the comic strip format and the ability of writer Jim Lawrence. Unlike long form comics or graphic novels, writers of strips had to get their ideas across quickly to keep the reader interested. However, even with the need for quick ideas, there’s subtext and even subplots in the writing. Imagine layered stories involving spies and espionage confined with five or six panels, each new story building on the last. That style of writing helped create comic books in the thirties but it was largely lost when full comic books took over from newspaper strips.
Don’t take my musings the wrong way. These are still kick-ass adventure stories. Bond is written a bit differently in the strips than the films. He’s still smooth, he’s still suave, but there’s a hardness to him, a rugged killer vibe that’s not present in most of the films. If I had to make a comparison, I’d say the James Bond of these strips is more akin to the recent Daniel Craig version of the spy. The stories are still set in a more “groovy” era, one where the super villains’ master plans may seem quaint or silly to the modern reader. If you can get past that then you’re in for some amazingly cool comic reading.
Another aspect of this omnibus is the art, which is extraordinary. I’ve long been a fan of this kind of black and white work and artist Yaroslav Horak is a master of it. Again you have to look at the skill required to create powerful images within such a small place. Horak uses bold lines as well as negative space and shadow together to create dramatic tension and action. The fights, the gun play, it all comes to life within these tiny panels. Each section moves into the other, creating a visual film strip that tricks the mind into adding movement. Between that kind of art and the excitement of the writing, The James Bond Omnibus #3 is a must have for any James Bond fan, comic book lover or combination of the two.
For more on James Bond comics, check this out.