This week we’re taking a breather from biographies to look at Bond, James Bond. I had wanted to do a whole 23 days of Bond, but after Halloween I was wiped out. Thankfully, Titan Books has put out another installment in the James Bond Omnibus for me to review. The James Bond Omnibus, Volume 4, puts together various old-school James Bond comics. This collection features nine stories that should please hard-core Bond fans. Since I’m a passing Bond fan I found a few of these really sexist, although that’s Bond for you, and I’m sure devout followers of Bond will relish these. The book is beautiful, regardless of content, and provides fun mini-adventures as you wait to see Skyfall, or go to see it again.
The book itself is put together well. It’s not a cloth cover book of comics, but has a really sturdy cover and looks just as sleek as 007. The colors of the comics themselves have stark contrasts in color; the black of the ink is rich and the white is crisp. Comics, especially ones copied into collections, can sometimes have smudged, or otherwise hard to read panels; not so here, as the words jump off the page. The stories range from cheesy to rather enjoyable.
Of the nine stories, the majority of them follow the same basic premise of Bond solving a mystery with the help of a hot girl whose usually naked. These are not comics for small children, ladies and gentleman. Each one usually opens with a woman having to get naked for some reason, whether the villain makes her strip, or she’s conveniently getting dressed/taking a shower just as Bond knocks on her door. The first story, The Trouble Spot, opens not just with a naked woman, but another naked woman whipping the first naked woman! The same can be found in Isle of the Condor (which includes an island of women training to fight, and obey a man via sleep therapy…naked), Die with My Boots On (in the first two pages a girl is stripped naked and punched in the face by Bond), and Beware of Butterflies. In certain stories Bond explains the need for the nudity, but the excuses are paper-thin. I understand these are representative of the time, but every single story! On top of that you have the healthy dose of Bond misogyny including theorizing that one woman had to die because “she’d no man to look after her” (39). I found it easier to blame the time period in response to bizarre technological advances like a “viroid,” or Bond’s use of the racial slur “Jap.”
The actual stories, removed from all that, range from well-done to enjoyable. Bond still has his requisite charm, and charisma. His puns are still there including my favorite from Trouble Spot: “I could’ve warned them these road duels are a dangerous gamble, but they insisted on taking the plunge” (18). The book also includes the fun Bond gadgets. The ones used in Die With My Boots On, Bond’s gun shoes and laser watch, were particular faves.
In terms of the stories themselves, the first one Trouble Spot doesn’t seem to have much of a payoff. The story itself appears to crush in a far longer resolution into a lone panel of explanation. Isle of the Condor is a fun one that includes a freaking death by condor! I’d love to see that in a live-action James Bond! This story also appears to be self-aware to its crazy story line as the main baddie Uccelli states that Bond’s alibi “is so ridiculous it may even be true” (57). I think Mr. Uccelli read this story. It’s a fun one no matter what. The League of Vampires is creative, and dark, with its plot around a vampire cult. It’s another story that I feel has cinematic potential although Bond does have a “duh” moment in it. Really Mr. Bond, you didn’t expect a man nicknamed Double Cross wasn’t going to betray you? It climaxes with Bond creating a massive oil spill that I’m sure decimated an entire ecosystem. The Girl Machine is a tad tongue-in-cheek to great effect. It actually starts by making Bond strip in a rare instance of women’s liberation. It’s hindered by the actual “girl machine” being a mobile porn theater. It felt like the longest of the stories, but that length allows for Bond to do a lot of international travel. Beware of Butterflies is another story that suffers from Bond seemingly needing to follow his lower extremities to his own detriment. He actually gets captured by the villains during his attempt to seduce a mermaid?! It does have electronic bugs in the ear which is super creepy, and gross. The idea in this story is to create an evil Bond which I found interesting. To provide contrast, and show just how evil Bond has become, he tries to rape a woman as opposed to seducing her! It was my favorite story of the series next to The Phoenix Project. The Phoenix Project reads like a Sherlock Holmes-esque mystery, and doesn’t open with naked women! In fact it’s completely different from the rest of the comics within, and is fantastic. It’s the one story I wished maybe was a full book.
I’d recommend The James Bond Omnibus Volume 4 for the die-hard Bond fan. To modern readers, or those not as closely in love with Bond, the misogyny might be a bit too much. The stories are all fascinating, and the ones that are great (that I mentioned) are worthy of reading. I haven’t read volumes 1-3, but you don’t need to read those to understand the stories. It’s interesting that Bond has had such a long shelf life in films, and the written (and drawn) world.
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The James Bond Omnibus Volume 004
I'm a college student getting my Master's in English, but dreams of getting an additional degree in Film. I'm a movie reviewer for several sites, but I also write classic film reviews for several other sites. I stretch myself pretty thin these days. You can usually find me at a bookstore, or a movie theater. I dream of the day when the two are combined. I base a lot of my friendships on favorite movies.