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Tag Archive: Ian Fleming


   

In many ways the spy protagonist Lorraine Broughton, played by Charlize Theron in this year’s action blockbuster Atomic Blonde, will be barely recognizable to fans of writer Antony Johnston and artist Sam Hart’s Lorraine Broughton, the heroine of the 2012 graphic novel The Coldest City The most obvious change is certainly that Broughton is not drawn blonde in the pages of the comic, but the modifications go much further.  Yet, if you can separate the source material from the film, both can be appreciated for the great stories and the visuals that both offer.

We reviewed the film Atomic Blonde here at borg.com back in August.  The original Oni Press graphic novel is now available in a movie tie-in edition.  Atomic Blonde is no doubt a catchy and excellent title, and matches the violent and dynamic tone of the film.  But The Coldest City is also a great title, carrying its own clever double meaning.  In the book’s pages Sam Hart draws a black and white spy story that echoes the bleakness of the Cold War territory Antony Johnston’s tale revisits.  Top spy Broughton is serious about her job, she’s street savvy, and has years of experience when she’s brought in for a debriefing at the beginning of the story.  Hart’s art style is striking, and like Jean-Marc Rochette’s artistry in his graphic novel Snowpiercer (reviewed here), the panels aren’t cluttered with detail, and he instead relies on simple, dark lines with shadows to emphasize the mood.  From every angle The Coldest City is an engaging “end of the Cold War” story.

As different as Atomic Blonde appears to be from the graphic novel, the film is substantially faithful to its source.  You might find the differences in the book and movie analogous to a comparison of the film version of Casino Royale starring Daniel Craig to Ian Fleming’s original novel (we reviewed that one here).  The imagery is different but the author’s intent comes through, albeit in an updated package.

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At the beginning of Daniel Craig’s first foray as James Bond in 2006’s Casino Royale, Craig redefined Bond as viewers were taken back to his first kill, the event that earned Bond his 00 status.  The scene instantly set the standard for the modern fight-or-die scene.  This is the exact level of hand-to-hand combat viewers will be treated to in the new summer release, Atomic Blonde.  Charlize Theron terrifically portrays what everyone always wanted to see: a woman in the role of James Bond.  Sure, she has a different name, but Theron is believable just the same as a spy being interrogated by heads of MI6 at the end of a mission.  As she tells her story, in every way she convinces us that she could go head-to-head with, and maybe even knock out Craig’s tough and bloody version of the Brit master spy.  Only don’t think this is a typical Bond movie.  It isn’t.  It’s layered, more like The Usual Suspects or Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, only better–less cerebral and more fun.  And Theron chalks up another badass cinematic heroine, resulting in a film that is easily worth the admission price.

Based on Antony Johnston and Sam Hart’s 2012 graphic novel The Coldest City from Oni Press, Atomic Blonde follows the original, focusing on several nation’s spies trying to recover a secret list of agents being smuggled out of East Germany just before the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.  Theron plays Lorraine Broughton, a no-nonsense top-level spy with attitude and style, battered and bruised from some recent epic encounter when we meet her at the beginning of the movie.  She’s being interrogated and debriefed by both British and American agency heads, with John Goodman (Argo, 10 Cloverfield Lane, The Big Lebowski, Monsters, Inc.) as the American and Toby Jones (Captain America: The First Avenger, Snow White and the Huntsman, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Doctor Who) as the Brit.  What unfolds is a smartly constructed Cold War thriller, more complicated than Ian Fleming but not as complicated as John le Carré, but enough so that it may lose viewers a few times along the way.  Ultimately Broughton finds herself trying to smuggle out of the country a German officer who memorized the secret spy list, played by Eddie Marsan (Sherlock Holmes, The Illusionist, V for Vendetta, The World’s End).  The rewards and payoffs come not only at the resolution but in several scenes along the way, as Theron punches, kicks, hammers, fires, splatters, mows down, stabs, punctures… everything but bites her way through dozens of bad guys trying to kill her.  The violence is extreme, but it all works–it’s great fun much like Arnold Schwarzenegger’s or Chuck Norris’s blockbuster rampages in the 1980s–and it’s not gratuitous like a Quentin Tarentino bloodbath (blown-off heads aside).

The Atomic Blonde of the title comes from Broughton’s short, 1980s style hair, and that length allows us to see that much of the time Theron is actually doing her own punching, and taking plenty of punches, from all these men.  She’s quicker, and she prepares herself for many of her battle damage by soaking in water filled with ice cubes–a concept that helps her more than once throughout the film.  The story and action really kicks in as Broughton begins to smuggle Marsan’s character out of the country and as the steps are laid out in a subplot involving her mission to assassinate Satchel, a double agent known for selling secrets to the Soviets.  It’s exciting like the real-life story told in Ben Affleck’s hit film Argo, where a spy smuggled a group of would-be hostages out of Iran in 1980.  Atomic Blonde has less subtlety and nuance than Argo, but Atomic Blonde similarly displays an early, retro style of storytelling compelling enough to keep viewers interested.  Does it feel like a comic book adaptation?  Sure.  Like History of Violence and Road to Perdition.  In fact Broughton could be Hit Girl from Kick-Ass all grown up.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Twenty years ago this weekend, the sovereignty of Hong Kong was handed back to China by the United Kingdom as the last act of the old British Empire, without incident.

The anniversary of this transfer of power coincides with the release by Hard Case Crime of one of crime fiction readers’ most eagerly awaited events: the final novel of Donald E. Westlake.  The result surpasses all expectations from one of America’s most celebrated authors:  the adventure of Ian Fleming, the complexity of Michael Crichton, the surprises of Stephen King, the thrills of Peter Benchley, the pulse of John Grisham.  A taut thriller, gripping, heart-pounding, and jaw-dropping, Forever and a Death is Donald E. Westlake saving his best for last.  Forever and a Death is his never-before-published new novel–a James Bond story of sorts–with an intriguing backstory.  Tapped to write the second James Bond film to feature Pierce Brosnan as Bond, Westlake created a compelling story of international intrigue revolving around the return of Hong Kong to China on July 1, 1997.  Because of the success of GoldenEye, the uncertainty of a smooth transfer of power of Hong Kong, and a distaste by the Chinese market for Bond,  the Broccoli family and the Bond franchise machine amicably parted ways with Westlake.  But he then reworked his story in secret, leaving behind at his death in 2008 a stunning action adventure, only snipping the world famous spy from the story.

The result is one of the most intelligent, loathsome, and shrewd Bond villains you’ll ever meet, Richard Curtis, an enormously wealthy business mogul who has amassed a network of corporations across the globe that will allow him to carry out his every wish.  When he is booted from Hong Kong at the transfer of power, he becomes fixated on a power play to destroy Hong Kong as payback.  As with many wealthy CEOs, Curtis is charismatic and influential.  He has encircled himself with individuals who are beholden to him for their own wealth and they would do anything to maintain his and their own lifestyle.  And that includes murder.  Not as preposterous as many Ian Fleming constructions, the method Westlake creates for Curtis is completely believable: using a series of carefully calculated explosions, a soliton wave will be created that will shake the very foundation of Hong Kong and reduce the entirety of the city–skyscrapers, homes, and millions of lives–to sediment.  Westlake introduces his male protagonist to show us the way, a trusted engineer named George Manville (a partner in action with Bond in the original treatment).  Kept in the dark about the ultimate goal, Manville completes the first test on a small abandoned island near Australia that he believes to be part of a plan to make the island into a lavish resort.  But when an environmental group tries to stimy Curtis’s test, a headstrong activist and diver emerges, a woman named Kim Baldur (who would become, to a small extent, Michelle Yeoh’s Wai Lin in Tomorrow Never Dies) dives into the ocean and swims for shore to stop the operation.  Unfortunately for her, Manville neglected to incorporate a kill switch to the project, and she is swallowed by the wave and what would have been a superb Honey Ryder-esque Bond girl is left for dead.  And this is only the introduction of the novel.

Artist Paul Mann completing the original artwork for the cover of Forever and a Death (from Illustrated 007).

Westlake peppers his story with completely unique characters, and readers will find they empathize with even the most minor of them as they are subjected to Curtis’s gruesome tactics.  You may need to remind yourself to breathe as well-meaning whistleblowers find themselves in Hong Kong’s underbelly just as Curtis begins to carry out a plan to walk away from his destruction with a haul of gold bars that rest in the bank vaults beneath the city.

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James Bond returns as we salute Sir Roger Moore, who passed away last week–the first franchise film James Bond actor to leave us.  This time Bond is back in the 1960s adaptations of six of his adventures in Goldfinger, the latest volume of The Complete Ian Fleming’s James Bond: The Classic Comic Strip Collection.  In addition to Goldfinger, you’ll find adaptations of the short stories and novels Risico, From A View To A Kill, For Your Eyes Only, The Man With The Golden Gun, and The Living Daylights.  These are restored editions of the original comic strip title that pre-dated the film adaptations.  But it’s a challenge not to read them in your head in the voices of the actors that portrayed them.

You haven’t heard of Risico?  Risico is a drug trafficking story that hails from Ian Fleming’s For Your Eyes Only, a collection of Bond short stories that also featured From a View to a Kill and Quantum of Solace, all adaptations themselves of plots for a Bond television series that was never filmed.  It’s always a curiosity to wait and see what the next Bond film will be titled, with almost all pulled from a Fleming novel, short story, or, in the case of Goldeneye, a Bond concept.  Risico is not only an unused film title, but an interesting story, adaptable to the modern day–prime fodder for another Daniel Craig outing–and the classic comic strip here is a fun introduction to this Fleming story.

The standout creator in this new book is late artist John McLusky, who is superb in his ability to keep a dialogue-heavy series full of action and intrigue.  McLusky is responsible for all the Bond trope visuals–the look and feel of Bond that carried over into the movie versions.  The streamlined but completely fleshed-out adaptations were provided by writers Henry Gammidge and Jim Lawrence.

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Felix Leiter. 

He’s James Bond’s American CIA counterpart, played onscreen by more actors than have played James Bond himself: Hawaii Five-O’s Jack Lord (Dr. No, 1962), Cec Linder (Goldfinger, 1964), Rik Van Nutter (Thunderball, 1965), Norman Burton (Diamonds Are Forever, 1971), David Hedison (Live and Let Die, 1973, and Licence to Kill, 1989), Bernie Casey (The Living Daylights, 1987), John Terry (Never Say Never Again, 1983), and most recently Jeffrey Wright (Casino Royale, 2006, and Quantum of Solace, 2008).  Leiter was a key player in six Ian Fleming novels–Casino Royale, Live and Let Die, Goldfinger, Thunderball, and The Man with the Golden Gun–where he drove a Studillac, which was a Studebaker with a Cadillac engine.

Leiter gets his first solo adventure ever this month in his own series, Felix Leiter, from Dynamite Comics.  James Robinson (Starman, Scarlet Witch) is writing the series with artwork by Aaron Campbell (The Shadow, Uncanny).  Issue #1 features a cover by Mike Perkins and Andy Taylor and an alternate cover by Gabriel Hardman and Jordan Boyd.  Leiter’s first appearance in comic books was in Mike Grell’s Permission to Die, reviewed here at borg.com.

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The new series finds Leiter in Japan, where he is pursuing Alena Davoff, a woman he has a close past with.  She happens to be a Russian agent.  He’s a detective since the loss of his hand and leg, but the CIA pulls him back into the mix with a Connery-esque Bond as Leiter pursues Davoff.

Check out a preview for Issue #1 of Felix Leiter, courtesy of Dynamite, after the cut.

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Westlake Forever and a Death Hard Case Crime

Whether you knew him as Tucker Coe, Curt Clark, Samuel Holt, Timothy J. Culver, J. Morgan Cunningham, Judson Jack Carmichael–or Richard Stark–you’ve probably read something by hard-boiled crime novelist and mystery writer Donald E. Westlake.  His most famous of these were probably his Parker novels, written under the pen name Richard Stark.  Westlake passed away eight years ago, but after more than 100 novels have hit the bookstores over the decades yet another as-yet unpublished Westlake novel will be released next year.

True to form as the latest groundbreaking imprint for true crime fans, Titan Books’ Hard Case Crime will be releasing Westlake’s Forever and a Death next year.  Aficionados of Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels and all the movie adaptations should take note.  Forever and a Death was actually the title of a “what if” of sorts.  Westlake submitted a story with this title (as well as alternate titles Dragonsteeth, Never Look Back, Nobody Dies, and On Borrowed Time) as a possible script for the movie that would have been the sequel to Goldeneye.

It turns out Eon Productions rejected the story so Westlake rewrote the story, swapping out the name James Bond.  That novel is carrying a cover similar to all the other exceptional Hard Case Crime retro-style poster artwork covers we’ve seen so far (J.K. Rowling has even called the Hard Case Crime series design “stunning”).  The cover for Forever and a Death was painted by artist Paul Mann.  And it looks like it would fit in with the exquisite Richie Fahey and Roseanne Serra cover art that graced the line of 14 paperback Bond novels for Fleming’s centenary celebration back in 2008, like these:

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Daniel Craig’s modern James Bond inspired by classic comic strip versions of Bond?

According to the foreword in James Bond: Spectre – The Complete Comic Strip Collection by John Logan, screenwriter for Gladiator, Star Trek Nemesis, The Last Samurai, The Aviator, Skyfall, and the latest James Bond film, SPECTRE, it’s the original Bond from Ian Fleming’s novels–the Bond before anyone viewed him as Sean Connery, and the same Bond revealed in the British comic book strips–that guided the writers to form Craig’s Bond in the last two movie installments.

After reading the comic strip adaptations of Thunderball, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, You Only Live Twice, and The Spy Who Loved Me, it’s easy to see it.  This less superheroic and more human, worn down, aging Bond is the Bond of the modern films.  Titan Books’ James Bond: Spectre – The Complete Comic Strip Collection, is now available in a deluxe hardcover edition, pulling from the rich archive of Bond strips those stories that dig into the origins of SPECTRE, that evil organization that Blofeld manipulated so well, and that was the focus of last year’s blockbuster.

Bond comic

You’ll find digitally remastered, original black and white versions of the iconic 1960s cartoon strips in an edition similar to the Flash Gordon series reviewed here previously at borg.com–a size that is ideal for reading these old comic strips easily, cover to cover.  Each story is based on Fleming’s novels, selected from the 52 comic strips that appeared between 1958 and 1983 syndicated in British newspapers.  The illustrations of the strip were rendered by John McLusky who would illustrate thirteen James Bond comic strips along with writer Henry Gammidge until 1966.

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THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E.

Review by C.J. Bunce

It’s almost a shame this weekend’s big screen release The Man from U.N.C.L.E. is a retelling of the 1960s television series.  It’s an adaptation in that it takes the framework of the show—an American and a Russian working together as Cold War era spies—yet director Guy Ritchie makes this work stand completely by itself.  The fact that it’s based on a classic series may turn away viewers who may be tired of other remakes of 1960s shows like Get Smart and The Avengers (both of which were good standalone films).  But that would be a great loss, as The Man from U.N.C.L.E. is not only as stylish as advertised in our favorite trailer of the year, it’s a classy and smart story and a superb re-creation of the early 1960s.

It’s no surprise that this film relishes its Bond influences–Henry Cavill’s character Napoleon Solo was created by Ian Fleming, the same Ian Fleming that created Bond.  Yet the movie is fresh and new.  The story and Cavill’s performance evoke Matt Bomer’s role of stylish and cocky ex-art thief-turned government man on TV’s White Collar.  In fact Cavill is a dead ringer for Bomer.  Likely it’s just a coincidence but if you loved White Collar you’ll love this film.  And any doubts you may have as to Cavill’s acting because of the poorly written part he was stuck with in Man of Steel will be wiped away with his confident and suave Solo.  Even better is Armie Hammer’s performance as Illya Kuryakin.  Any doubts you may have as to Hammer’s acting from his lead role in The Lone Ranger will also be wiped away.  Hammer’s performance as a KGB agent in need of some anger management is nuanced and layered.  The idea of putting some Ennio Morricone musical queues behind Hammer and adding a Clint Eastwood Dirty Harry twitch are simply inspired.  This is a great team and a film that sets itself up for an exciting sequel.

Cavill Debicki Man from UNCLE

As commanding a presence as Cavill and Hammer have, they are almost upstaged by the equally important roles played by Alicia Vikander as the German daughter of a rocket scientist and Elizabeth Debicki as the ultimate Bond villain.  The villainy in The Man from U.N.C.L.E. is surprisingly as powerful, seething, and fun as any 1960s Bond film.  All of this is a credit to Ritchie’s bankable directorial and writing prowess.  A fan of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Ritchie knows how to get the best out of partnerships here, just as he did with his Sherlock Holmes movie series.

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Phil Noto Black Widow

The last day of the year is finally here, and with that the last of our reviews of the best content of 2014.

We’ve previewed comic books each month thanks to publishers like Dynamite Comics, Dark Horse Comics, IDW Publishing, BOOM! Studios, and Image.  We sample the best of all that Marvel and DC Comics has to offer, too, and although we don’t have enough time to review everything we review those titles we think our readers might like to check out, especially those with a sci-fi, fantasy, or retro angle.  And we read plenty of books–sci-fi and fantasy, pulp and spy novels, movie and TV tie-ins, even Westerns and steampunk, as well as non-fiction books about movies, TV, and other genre topics.  This past month we have looked again at these titles, as we narrowed our selections to what we think are the very best.  So here are our picks for Best in Print for 2014.

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Best Comic Book Series — Black Widow, Marvel Comics.  We were wondering early on what would take the place of Fraction and Hollingsworth’s Hawkeye series for the most satisfying superhero fix.  It didn’t take long to see this other Marvel series looking at another superhero in a similarly personal–but very different–way.  It was a standout in a great year of comics.  Phil Noto’s art and colors were incredible and Nathan Edmondson’s story didn’t let up once.  Full of action, espionage, and intrigue.  A great series to catch-up on in a trade edition.  See our reviews of the series here and here.

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Best Comic Book Mini-Series — Afterlife with Archie, Archie Comics.  Who would have guessed someone could make Archie and friends so accessible to any demographic in the 2010s?  And whose brilliant idea was doing it via a horror genre story of zombies taking over Riverdale?  Smart writing by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and spooky atmospheric illustrations by Francesco Francavilla made for a sumptuous series like no other.  Not technically a mini-series, it feels like one because of its staggered release.  See our earlier raves about the series here.

Wilds End issue 1

Best Comic Book Writing – Dan Abnett, Wild’s End, BOOM! Studios.  Abnett’s Wild’s End really caught us by surprise.  An incredible fantasy read that is truly unique from BOOM! Studios.  Anthropomorphic characters with incredible archaic dialogue that’s witty and smart.  A crazy mash-up of War of the Worlds, Christopher Robin’s neighborhood, and the dark edge and high stakes of Revival.  We can’t wait to see what’s in store for the rest of this series.  Check out our earlier review here.

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Aston Martin DB10 - New Bondmobile

The same agency that taunted James Bond in five classic James Bond films (Thunderball, Dr. No, The Spy Who Loved Me, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, and You Only Live Twice) will be the title of the next Bond film, SPECTRE, the 24th in the current franchise and 26th to feature Bond if you include David Niven’s Casino Royale and Never Say Never Again.  SPECTRE, which stands for SPecial Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion,” is the movie incarnation of the less gritty sounding SMERSH, a Russian acronym for “Special Methods of Spy Detection” in the original Ian Fleming Bond novels.  Two-time Academy Award winner Christoph Waltz will star as the next Bond villain, named Oberhauser.  SPECTRE is also the agency led by fan favorite Bond villain Blofeld, which has led to speculation that Oberhauser is really an alias for Blofeld, like the much ballyhooed, almost-surprise villain Khan in the last Star Trek movie.

Although all Bond novel titles have been used for Bond films, unused titles for original Fleming authored Bond works include “The Hildebrand Rarity,” “Risico” or “The Double Take,” “007 in New York,” and “The Property of a Lady.”  You Only Live Twice, Never Say Never Again, Licence to Kill, The World is Not Enough, Tomorrow Never Dies, Die Another Day, Goldeneye and Skyfall were sourced from concepts within the novels, and A View to a Kill taken from the story “From a View to a Kill.”

SPECTRE movie poster teaser 2015

Even a slick new Aston Martin, the DB10 (shown above) is being rolled out for Bond for the next film.  After the break check out the new title teaser video for the film.

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