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Tag Archive: James Bond


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 fans loved when they could choose between two Bonds.  It only happened once, back in 1983 you had your choice of then-current Bond Roger Moore starring in Octopussy, or the back-from-retirement Bond Sean Connery in Never Say Never Again–the outside of canon Bond film created during a contract dispute.  But as much as we think the current Bond, Daniel Craig, is perfect as Bond, who wouldn’t want to see Pierce Brosnan return one more time?

We’ve no hope to see Brosnan return again as Bond, but we may be getting a taste of just that later this year when Martin Campbell, director of Brosnan in GoldenEye and Craig in Casino Royale, returns to direct Brosnan–this time as antagonist–in the action film/drama The Foreigner.  The Foreigner is even bigger news for Jackie Chan fans, as Chan will star as the film’s hero.  American audiences have been begging for his return for years.  They really haven’t seen Chan since 2010’s remake of The Karate Kid, and in full martial arts mode it’s been ten years–back in 2007’s Rush Hour 3.

Veering away from Chan’s normal, light-hearted summer popcorn movie use of his incredible martial arts skill (along with his notable team of stuntmen) The Foreigner is a serious drama, delving into modern-day terrorism as Chan’s character seeks revenge for his daughter’s death.  Like the similar vibe seen in the Transporter and Taken series, the first trailer for The Foreigner reveals some fine wall-to-wall action.  But a sense of Chan’s clever use of his high octane martial arts style in troubling situations is also obviously peppered into the film.

Here is the first trailer for The Foreigner:

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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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20th Century Fox released a teaser last month for Kingsman: The Golden Circle, and last week followed up with a full preview, including an intriguing cyborg.  The secret British spy organization is coming back to theaters this year and the sequel to Kingsman: The Secret Service stars a top-notch cast including Colin Firth, Mark Strong, Jeff Bridges, Halle Berry, Taron Egerton, Channing Tatum, and Julianne Moore.

Edward Holcroft returns as Taron Egerton’s stuck-up nemesis, Charlie Hesketh.  But this time he’s sporting interchangeable arms, no doubt a future contender for the borg.com Hall of Fame.

Check out this first, full-length preview for Kingsman: The Golden Circle: 

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A cyborg bowler or The Cyborg Who Love Me?

The 2014 surprise hit Kingsman: The Secret Service showed the world what it would be like for Colin Firth–the not so secret man all women want to be with since his role in the 1995 costume drama mini-series Pride & Prejudice–to play James Bond (or someone pretty close).  The secret British spy organization is coming back to theaters this year.

The sequel to Kingsman: The Secret Service, titled Kingsman: The Golden Circle, stars a top-notch cast including Colin Firth, Mark Strong, Jeff Bridges, Halle Berry, Taron Egerton, Channing Tatum, and Julianne Moore.

Check out this teaser for The Kingsman: The Golden Circle:

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This summer Dynamite Entertainment is re-uniting the team of writer Andy Diggle (Detective Comics, Green Arrow, James Bond: Hammerhead) and artist Luca Casalanguida (James Bond: Hammerhead) to bring spy thriller genre fans the next chapter in its series of James Bond international espionage stories, James Bond: Kill Chain.

Dynamite describes the new story line:
When a counterespionage operation in Rotterdam goes catastrophically wrong, James Bond finds himself in the crosshairs of a plot to smash NATO.  Someone is assassinating allied agents, and 007 is the next target in the kill chain.  Having kept the peace for decades, the old alliance is collapsing, pitting MI6 against its former ally – the CIA!

Issue #1 of James Bond: Kill Chain will feature a selection of cover variants, with covers drawn by Greg Smallwood (Archie, Moon Knight), interior artist Casalanguida, and Juan Doe (Guardians of the Galaxy), among other variant options.

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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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mycroft-cover-b    mycroft-2

We’ve seen some celebrities turn to the unlikely medium of comic books to tell their stories recently.  First, we saw Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Darryl McDaniels turn to comic books to tell his own story under the DMC label.  Then Congressman John Lewis wrote a graphic novel about the civil rights movement called March–winning countless awards this year.  Now basketball legend and activist Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has adapted Arthur Conan Doyle’s Mycroft Holmes into the next best steampunk comic book series.

Mycroft Holmes and the Apocalypse Handbook, co-created with writer Raymond Obstfeld, artist Joshua Cassara, colorist Luis Guerrero, and lettered by Simon Bowland, is the ultimate mash-up of 19th century science fiction and fantasy motifs.  Sherlock’s smarter brother has been kidnapped by Queen Victoria, tasked with deciphering a building full of broken doomsday machines capable of doing the unthinkable.  Think Warehouse 13, if a suave Brit (think James Bond), with a quirky analytical mind (think Doctor Who) is plunged into a world-ending event and an impossible task to solve.

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Mycroft Holmes reads like Bill Willingham’s Legenderry–A Steampunk Adventure and Alan Moore’s The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, only with five issues to speed through the story the action is quick, the dialogue is brief, and the banter is witty and fun.  Abdul-Jabbar, who became a fan of reading Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories early in his NDA career, grew to become a connoisseur of 19th century fiction including Holmes and his infamous brother, enough to write the novel Mycroft Holmes–A Novel with screenwriter Anna Waterhouse, published last year.   Mycroft Holmes and the Apocalypse Handbook takes Mycroft on a parallel-world adventure from the Mycroft of Abdul-Jabbar’s novel.

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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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Pine KIrk

It’s an unusual thing.  We’ve seen plenty of unusual with the Star Trek reboot universe–also called the JJ Abrams Star Trek, and now the Kelvin Timeline because of the ship that as destroyed when Nero came back in time to alter the past.  Whatever it is, it’s a different kind of Star Trek than what fans were used to for 40 years.  Now with a 50th anniversary upon us, Star Trek joins James Bond and Doctor Who in the elite club of 50-year genre classic franchises.

Comparing Star Trek to James Bond would be unusual, too.  One is science fiction, the other, spy and action movie.  Star Trek isn’t a spy story, but it has traditionally been dosed with a bit of action here and there, while always taking a back seat to dramatic story telling.  James Bond has a few trademark notables, like a single James Bond theme and a pop song that highlights each new release.  Star Trek, over its entire 50 years, does not have a single theme, instead opting for new scores and thematic cues for each new series and movie.  But now for the first time, Star Trek is getting its own pop song for the next iteration of the franchise.

Star Trek Beyond

Call it a Justin Lin thing, something you’d expect for a director known for Fast and The Furious movies.  The final trailer to drop from Paramount for Star Trek Beyond landed this week, and it features the new song “Sledgehammer” by Rihanna.  Check it out:

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