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Tag Archive: James Bond


Review by C.J. Bunce

It helps to know upfront that Scottish comedian and personality Frankie Boyle always wanted to write comics.  His inspiration wasn’t from the decades of superhero comics, but Alan Moore, whose attitude, as Boyle sees it, was “that comics had sort of run their course.”  A fan of the writing of Ed Brubaker, David Lapham, and Jason Aaron, Boyle embarked on an ambitious project, asking “what sort of comics do you write after comics have been done already?”  The result was first published in serial format in Mark Millar’s short-lived CLiNT magazine, and with two new chapters to wrap up his story a complete, graphic novel-length story arrives next week from Titan Comics, called Frankie Boyle’s Rex Royd.

Ambitious is the key word to describe Rex Royd.  At its worst, Boyle has touched on Alan Moore’s outrageous depravity as seen in his Lost Girls.  At its best, Boyle has created a character that will appeal to fans of the disconnected and dispassionate Dr. Manhattan and the idiosyncratic and self-absorbed Ozymandias in Moore’s acclaimed Watchmen series.  With his protagonist, the Lex Luthor-esque supervillain scientist and CEO Rex Royd, Boyle has created a brash reflection of non-mainstream comics in the pre-Marvel Cinematic Universe era.  His “hero” is like Ian Fleming’s James Bond if you remove all the tropes that make us actually like Bond, all the fun things that keep us coming back for more and not just dismiss the character as a misogynistic, unexpurgated blunt instrument.  Boyle is fully in on this, as his lead female character Eve–as in the biblical partner of Adam–resembles Bond’s confidante Eve Moneypenny in the last two Bond movies.

And yet, Rex Roydthe book–is like a writing experiment.  What do we get if we take out all these good elements and swap in the dark outcomes?  So it sometimes reads like Neil Gaiman writing a 24-Hour Comic (I’ve read that, this is probably better), but then, as in the ninth and final chapter of the book, we’re surprised with a clever sort of play on Thornton Wilder’s Our Town, with some Harvey Pekar-inspired attempts at making some meaning of it all.  So there’s a lot going on.  If you find linearity and deep meaning in the book, well, the joke may be on you, as the author has said when the artists needed some of his script to be explained, his response was, “It’s supposed to be a joke.”

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Review by C.J. Bunce

World War II is definitely a theme in popular culture these days.  Only in the past week we had a preview of Archie 1941, then a preview for Season 3 of The Man in the High Castle, and now a 1941 story featuring everyone’s favorite master spy.  James Bond is a young man trying to survive the Clydesbank Blitz in Scotland in the first origin tale of Bond years before his memorable stint in Her Majesty’s Secret Service in the new comic book series Ian Fleming’s James Bond Origin.  Issue #1 arrives Wednesday at comic book stores everywhere.  We meet the orphan Bond as a young adult, eager to learn more about his parents, already able to teach fellow students a course in judo, and eager to grab onto the coattails and seek the advice of the professors he has access to.

Written by Jeff Parker (Suicide Squad, Fantastic Four) with artwork by Bob Q (The Lone Ranger) and lettering by Simon Bowland (Plastic Man), the first issue of the story has the same feel of an untouchable oppressor from the sky as H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds.  Full of the action level we know from the Bond movies, the story is waiting for the hero to step in and take over.  How is James Bond of March 11, 1941 different than the Bond with the 00 status?  He has some rudimentary skills, he has the desire to learn, but he doesn’t have the confidence just yet.

   

The Clydesbank Blitz is the most  destructive attack by the Germans on Scotland, and Bond finds himself right in the middle of it.  The new series will be released this week with seven cover variants, with artwork by artists John Cassaday, David Mack, Kev Walker, Gene Ha, Ibrahim Moustafa, and Bob Q with Jordan Boyd.

Check out a preview from Issue #1 and all the covers (above and below):

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With 3D imaging and new technologies arriving each year, one of the attractions that just seems to get overlooked is the statue market.  Sure, Sideshow, Gentle Giant, Weta, and several other companies offered up some incredible figurines at San Diego Comic-Con last weekend, and this year the Sideshow booth had so many new creations it seemed like an endless row after row any figure could get lost in.  Yet for the most part we’re seeing new versions of the same characters we saw last year and the year before.  So it’s more difficult for anything to knock your socks off.  It’s rarer to see someone come up with something new, and it’s the rare realization of a fresh idea with new 3D rendered sculpts that has become the real jaw dropper.

This year that surprise was the unannounced preview of a new series of high-end figures from Gentle Giant’s own brand, the Honey Trap Army A tongue-in-cheek throwback mashing the best of 1960s and 1970s design with the spy movie genre, the first series of four figures was a standout among collectible statue figures five years ago.  With the 2013 convention exclusive (discussed at borg.com here) Whisper character, Gentle Giant interpreted the 1960s James Bond–think Thunderball and Doctor No–and created a deep-sea diving superspy who could probably kill anyone with her harpoon 21 different ways.  Right with her, team member Katya was ready to take no prisoners with her trusty Doberman, Lucky was straight out of the Army special forces, and Derby was something else altogether.  With box art by Kevin Dart, we thought the Honey Trap Army was poised to best the G.I. Joe Adventure Team.  Like many a toy line–as many learned over the past year watching The Toys That Made Us on Netflix–the Honey Trap Army was an idea that went straight to the toy (in this case, a collectible) with no backstory, comic book, animated show, or movie tie-in.

So we were happily surprised to see last weekend at San Diego Comic-Con, overlooked by many, the next series of the Honey Trap Army.  It begins with the new British spy with the best spy name not created by Ian Fleming–Brexit, also known as Dani Mint.  She’s the explosives expert, and brings along the fight of Britannia.  She is joined by a new Russian spy with the simple moniker The Russian.  Don’t let her little dog distract you.  And the seventh member of the Honey Trap Army is Junior.  You can find Junior easily.  She’s driving race car number 88.

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When you think of iconic with respect to genre films from Hollywood, what first comes to mind?  The Wizard of Oz?  Star Wars?  Jaws?  James Bond?  Raiders of the Lost Ark?  Forbidden Planet?  Planet of the Apes?  Star Trek?  Terminator?  Maybe superhero movies?

Maybe your tastes are after less of the big franchises.  Like Edward Scissorhands, Spaceballs, American Graffiti, or Power Rangers?

Costumes and props representing all of these franchises made their way to booths of auction houses showing off their lots for fans of San Diego Comic-Con this past weekend.  Just how long is too long to become transfixed at the golden birds atop the actual Lost Ark (okay, one of the actual Lost Arks seen in Raiders of the Lost Ark)?

President Joe Maddalena and prop expert Brian Chanes from Profiles in History–the biggest auction house of Hollywood entertainment memorabilia–were on hand to walk visitors through some truly iconic props and costumes featured in its next big auction.  Nearby, The Prop Store (formerly The Prop Store of London) had COO Brandon Alinger and its Los Angeles staff and some members from its London branch onsite show off select pieces from this week’s Power Rangers auction and future auctions.

Some of the finest Star Wars props and costumes are coming to auction soon, including production models, Imperial helmets–including Darth Vader–multiple lightsabers, and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story costumes including one worn by Felicity Jones as the film’s heroine Jyn Erso.  A jacket purported to be one of those worn by Harrison Ford as Han Solo in The Empire Strikes Back was at The Prop Store display (they expect it to sell for $1 million or more).  One of the biggest sellers will no doubt be an original series command tunic worn by William Shatner in Star Trek and a Type 2 phaser, both with good provenance.  One of the hats used in the greatest fantasy film classic, The Wizard of Oz, for the Wicked Witch played by Margaret Hamilton, will be sold by Profiles in History.  And a full supersuit worn by Christopher Reeve in the original Superman films will be auctioned by Prop Store.

A weapon used by Leslie Nielsen in Forbidden Planet, Johnny Depp’s Edward Scissorhands outfit, a full-sized Terminator, props from Spaceballs, an Indiana Jones fedora, a director’s clapperboard from Jaws, a license plate with a familiar number from American Graffiti, a special effects doll used for James Bond in For Your Eyes Only, an original ape costume from Planet of the Apes, and an original Spider-man supersuit.  They are all coming up for auction soon.  Check out these photos from the Prop Store and Profiles in History booths:

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The world first met Ian Fleming’s James Bond with the release of the novel Casino Royale in 1953.  That first Bond story would be adapted into a newspaper comic strip in the UK in 1958, followed by a film–a satirical comedy version–in 1967 starring David Niven, followed by a dramatic film version in 2006 starring Daniel Craig.  But it’s the print comic version, the newspaper adaptation, that received a new retooling of sorts this year.  Dynamite Comics tapped writer Van Jensen (Flash, The Six Million Dollar Man: Fall of Man), artist Dennis Calero (Masks, Kolchak), colorist Chris O’Halloran (Lockjaw, Black Panther), letterer Simon Bowland (Red Sonja, Judge Dredd), and vintage cover artist Fay Dalton (Worlds of Tomorrow) to deliver a 2018 update to Casino Royale for a new generation of readers.  The result is a rich and elegant new look at Fleming’s first Bond adventure.

From the look of Bond’s classic 1933 Bentley to the French casino where much of the story happens, the tone, mood, and style is fresh while also nostalgic.  Jensen balances the extensive dialogue from the original novel to avoid a graphic novel that is merely talking heads.  He is most successful at having Bond explain the rules of Baccarat to the reader via a conversation at dinner with M’s assigned companion for him, Vesper Lynd.  Calero’s Bond has the steely eyes of Michael Fassbender.  At the card table we meet some doppelgangers in this reader’s eyes: Grace Kelly as the American film star, Barbara Bel Geddes as the rich American, Philip Seymour Hoffman as the DuPont heir, Emma Thompson as Mrs. DuPont, Julian Glover as the Belgian, Nigel Green as Lord Danvers, Pete Postlethwaite or Titos Vandis as the Greek.  And in Le Chiffre we see a bit of Aleister Crowley (Fleming’s inspiration for the character) mixed with Orson Welles (who played him in the 1967 film), and a little JFK meets Brad Pitt for American CIA agent Felix Leiter.

O’Halloran’s minimalist use of color and Calero’s lack of background detail helps keep the reader engaged, and Calero’s work is particularly interesting visualizing Bond’s thoughts in a way that evokes a Bill Sienkiewicz style.  The characters are not reminiscent of actors who have portrayed them previously, leaving readers to experience this version of Casino Royale without any preconceptions, although this version may make fans of the original films wonder how Sean Connery would have played Bond in this tale.  The various lettering styles required of the text give more significance to Bowland’s part in telling the story, and O’Halloran’s colors definitely evoke a 1950s world.

Here are some pages from Dynamite’s Casino Royale:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

First published in March 1956, Diamonds Are Forever is Ian Fleming’s fourth James Bond novel.  This time Bond is tasked by M to follow the route of diamond smugglers transporting stones into England from Africa and on to the United States.  He replaces a small-time transporter and is partnered with the novel’s requisite “Bond girl,” Tiffany Case, and they embark on a trip to the Northeast United States.  Bond becomes an employee of The Mob, and is reunited with his former American ally Felix Leiter (minus an arm and leg after the shark incident in Live and Let Die).  The story moves on to Las Vegas, with some good gambling scenes, then on to a rebuilt Old West town called Spectreville, where Bond meets a strange and wealthy villain who collects real antique trains as if they were toys.  And the action culminates aboard the cruiseship Queen Elizabeth.  The novel is nicely bookended, beginning and ending at a thorn bush occupied by a scorpion in the middle of a desert.

Typically Ian Fleming and James Bond are at their worst when visiting America.  It’s difficult to enjoy the normally down-to-Earth Bond pick up his author’s clear disdain for Americans, whether his inner-monologue through Bond is truly a reflection of the times or not.  Fleming exhibits his peculiar theme of Americans rambling all their dialogue in long outbursts with “low English” dialect regardless of their social strata.  And Fleming seems to wallow in his racism in scenes set in America more so than with Bond in other locales.  But the biggest plus?  The lack of that James Bond misogyny compared to other Fleming efforts.  The seventh novel adapted into a film, and the last canon work for Sean Connery as Bond (he’d have one more go at it 12 years later in Never Say Never Again), Fleming’s fourth Bond novel and the film carrying its name ultimately share little resemblance, ultimately a good thing for moviegoers.  Yet with the current Bond and the reboot of the franchise with Casino Royale, a solid adaptation redo from a good screenwriter could be possible as the story is serviceable with a good edit.

   

The first act takes off too slowly.  The second act is very dry, reading like a travelogue, and at times it is nearly unbearable–to illustrate this point I began reading Diamonds Are Forever in 2014 and kept grinding to a halt (as noted in my review of Dr. No).  Somehow I began again and made it this weekend, thanks to a classic Bond casino scene in Chapter 17 and a stunning car chase action sequence in Chapter 18 that got me over the hump.  From then on, those final 100 pages, the story comes together and Bond, Tiffany Case, the corps of villains, and that classic Bond action finally kicks into high gear.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

For a niche area of publishing, you might be surprised how diverse the range of coverage you can find in art books delving behind the scenes of the latest movies.  In Titan Books latest artbook Tomb Raider: The Art and Making of the Film, two key elements stand out compared to prior examinations of film.  First, the cast and crew were deeply passionate about the film, reflected in their great contributions to the book.  Second, audiences have probably not seen production sets and stunt sequences that created realism in the adventure genre as much as Tomb Raider since the Raiders of the Lost Ark series, although it’s no secret that Raiders of the Lost Ark was the principal inspiration for many key sequences.  In the theater it’s easy to get into the story and not hone in on the background details, but thanks to this latest entry in the artbook realm fans of the film will see how it became a mix of James Bond-level stunt work built on a classic adventure style full of exciting special effects.

As with Guillermo del Toro’s significant contributions to The Shape of Water artbook, Tomb Raider director Roar Uthaug contributes insight into his vision in nearly every segment of the book.  He references his love for Raiders of the Lost Ark when creating his film for its mix of action, humor, archaeology, mystery, and great characters.  He also looked back to Ripley and Sarah Connor in Alien and Terminator 2 as he carved out the lead role for Alicia Vikander as Lara Croft.  Other executives and crew members explain significant aspects of the creation of the film: producer Graham King was perhaps the earliest advocate for a reboot film in the series, production designer Gary Freeman (Maleficent, Everest) knew exactly how he wanted to create the major environments for the adventure, cinematographer George Richmond (Kingsman 1 and 2) discusses challenges filming the visual effects sequences, costume designer Colleen Atwood (Arrow, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them) provides particular insight into her creation of the look of each character and how she sourced materials, and stunt coordinator Frank Henson (Never Let Me Go, Sherlock Holmes) had a greater responsibility in this stunt-heavy film than a stunt coordinator in most movies with its variety of action scenes.  Star Alicia Vikander (Ex Machina, The Man from U.N.C.L.E.) recounts the experience of playing the popular character as a sort of prequel or origin story for the character.  Vikander contributes heavily to the behind the scenes detail of the book, in addition to the other key players in the film, including co-stars Daniel Wu and Walton Goggins.

The film all centered around leaving the past films in the past and honing in on the 2013 video game reboot of Tomb Raider.  It is not likely any prior adaptation of a video game has come as close to its source as the new film, which included many storyboarded scenes from the 2013 game sequences.  From the London training facility where Lara trains in MMA fighting, to the planning and execution of the exciting fox-and-hound bicycle race on the back streets of London (one of the few scenes where Vikander didn’t do her own stunts was the crash), to the very Indy Jones-esque crypt under Croft Manor, to the chase scene at a full-scale mock-up of Hong Kong’s Aberdine Harbor, to building the cargo ship from the game–the weathered vessel Endurance–on a giant hydraulic gimble (set dresser Raffaella Giovannetti used real materials from similar ships to give it the realistic appearance), to Vikander’s twelve days submerged under water in a tank–the book is filled with production how-to knowledge for any aspiring filmmaker, movie aficionado, or anyone who is just a fan of Lara Croft.  Roughly half of the volume covers the scenes that take place on the island.  Author Sharon Gosling points out Vikander was filmed in the raging rapids sequence in the facility where the 2012 Olympics were held, and the parachute drop scene came straight from the game.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

One hundred years ago today, March 9, 1918, mystery writer Mickey Spillane was born.  To celebrate his centenary crime novelist Max Allan Collins finalized two of Spillane’s unpublished works, and they will be published later this month for the first time together in one volume as The Last Stand.  Spillane was a mentor and friend of Collins, a crime novelist in his own right, most recently known for his Quarry novels, adapted into a Cinemax TV series.  Collins put the final touches on both a “lost” 1950s classic Spillane crime story novella with an appropriately two-fisted title, A Bullet for Satisfaction, and Spillane’s final unpublished novel from 2006, The Last Stand, a contemporary adventure tale set on a Native American reservation.  Collins includes a detailed introduction to the new volume recounting Spillane’s influence on the post-World War II paperback surge, on crime novels, and on films and books being made to this day derived from his legendary investigator Mike Hammer, including James Bond, John Shaft, Dirty Harry Callahan, Billy Jack, Jack Bauer, and Jack Reacher.

Two tough men:  One like you’d expect in a Spillane crime novel, a cop who is too tough for his own good and gets thrown off the force, fighting his way back.  The other, a seasoned pilot, someone out of a Louis L’Amour novel who lands in the middle of an Indiana Jones story, complete with the search for ancient artifacts and the guts to fight the toughest guy in town.

A Bullet for Satisfaction, from Spillane’s earlier years, is exactly what you want from a crime mystery, a dreary town with corrupt politicians, mob thugs, a few damsels in distress, and plenty of knives and guns and punches.  Ed McBain, James M. Cain, Erle Stanley Gardner, Donald E. Westlake–if you’ve read any of these authors, you’ll want to delve into Spillane’s works, and Satisfaction is a good start.

The Last Stand couldn’t be more different than Satisfaction.  It begins with an airplane crash and a pilot of vintage planes named Joe Gillian, marooned in the desert with a few candy bars and some cans of beer.  A set-in-his-ways ex-military pilot, he finds himself rescued in the desert and soon becomes blood-brother with Sequoia Pete, who takes him to his reservation.  As a treasure hunt ensues with global implications, a local thug jealous of Joe marks him for death.  Joe doesn’t seem to be in a big hurry to get out of town as the FBI drop in, seemingly to keep the peace, but a lot more is going on out in this tiny desert village.  The Last Stand is heavy on banter between Pete and Joe–the relationship is very close to the sheriff and the Native American deputy in Hell or High Water, but “White-Eyes” Joe is not remotely as bigoted and unlikeable as Jeff Bridge’s sheriff in that movie.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Ryan Coogler, the young writer-director of the excellent Rocky sequel Creed, has put his Creed star Michael B. Jordan against Chadwick Boseman, who played Jackie Robinson in 42 and Thurgood Marshall in last year’s film Marshall.  The result?  The next great Marvel superhero movie, Black Panther, opening this weekend in theaters everywhere.  Boseman is back as King T’Challa, the suave and poised Black Panther of the comic books who audiences first met in 2016’s Captain America: Civil War.  The new film fills in the blanks of T’Challa’s origin story, populated with a dozen of the best characters from any of the Marvel Cinematic Universe entries, matched to some of today’s best actors.  On the heels of last year’s wildly successful surprise hit Thor: Ragnarok, Black Panther is just as good if not better, but completely different.  It’s a more serious tale, a one-off in the MCU similarly spliced into the ongoing Avengers narrative as was done with 2016’s supernatural Doctor Strange.  It also supplies a new, rich superhero mythology populated primarily with black characters–a film first featuring a black superhero title character in a major studio release.  Coogler’s layered, multifaceted film is even more successful at accomplishing what Zack Snyder tried to do last year with the DC Universe film Wonder Woman, which first put a woman in a title role in a major superhero movie.  Coogler makes great strides with Black Panther, not just a mere first step.

Beginning with a father teaching his son about a hidden country in Africa called Wakanda, we learn that a powerful resource called vibranium gives the people of this land incredible power, which they hide from the known world.  The story is straight out of Shakespeare or Roman and Greek histories: three princes compete for the throne of Wakanda when the King dies in a terrorist attack at the United Nations.  Boseman’s T’Challa is the heir-apparent who is challenged for the throne first by Prince M’Baku (Winston Duke), then by Jordan’s Erik Stevens, a special forces soldier from the States whose death toll in battle earned him the nickname Killmonger.  Not just a one-note villain found so often in superhero movies, Erik has his own complex backstory that converges with T’Challa’s efforts to capture the film’s villain, Ulysses Klaue (pronounced “claw”), one of Marvel’s best villains yet, played by Middle-earth native Gollum and The Planet of the Apes’s series’ star Andy Serkis.  Although his antics are unique, here Klaue is the crazed villain you’d expect from a superhero story.  Erik also assumes a villain role, but his story and particularly his life in parallel to the new King is more biblical in its roots.  Erik’s father is N’Jobu, a compelling supporting character at odds with Wakanda, played by Marshall co-star and Supernatural’s Sterling K. Brown, and his past sets up a compelling tragedy arc within the film for Erik.

For those who go to superhero movies for badass superheroics, it’s the women of the film that fill that niche.  Our own early borg.com nominee for the annual badass heroine of the year goes to the fan-favorite actor from The Walking Dead, Danai Gurira, as Wakanda General Okoye.  Her steely resolve and loyalty alone is enough to get us to race back to the theater to watch her all over again in the theater tomorrow.  A Wakanda spy and confidante of the King is Nakia, played by Star Wars: The Force Awakens and The Jungle Book star Lupita Nyong’o, a fierce and savvy ally.  But a favorite of the film for many will no doubt be T’Challa’s young sister Shuri, played by Letitia Wright (Doctor Who, Ready Player One, Humans, The Commuter).  The film doesn’t completely find its voice and reach full throttle until Shuri lets out a howl in a conversation with her brother.  By that point the entire audience is onboard.  Shuri is very much derived from Q in the James Bond movies, supplying her brother with the latest tech.  After movie audiences got a peek at what a woman would look like as James Bond with South African actress Charlize Theron as a superspy in last year’s Atomic Blonde, those looking for the first black James Bond need go no further than Boseman’s smooth and stylish take on T’Challa Coogler even inserts a spectacular casino mission scene straight out of 2012’s Skyfall, and borrows another great character from the Bond playbook with The Hobbit and Sherlock actor Martin Freeman as a very, very Felix Leiter-esque American CIA agent named Everett Ross.  A scene pitting Freeman opposite Serkis again will be a fun reunion for fans of Peter Jackson’s Tolkien movies.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Octopussy and The Living Daylights was the 14th and final book of Ian Fleming’s James Bond works.  Published posthumously in 1966, the stories would take on new lives in movies, the first starring Roger Moore, the second starring Timothy Dalton.  Before both of those films, Bond fans in England would see both stories played out in newspaper comic strips.  Titan Books has re-issued the comic strips in giant collected editions reprinting the strips at their original scale, first with its Dr. No (1958-60) collection, then in its Spectre edition (reviewed here), and next in its Goldfinger (1960-66) edition (reviewed here).  The Living Daylights story was captured in the Goldfinger collection, and Titan has just released its next edition in the series, Octopussy–The Complete Ian Fleming’s James Bond–The Classic Comic Strip Collection 1966-69.

This fourth book in the series leads off with Fleming favorites Octopussy and The Hildebrand Rarity, and it also includes two new stories featuring Bond from the newspaper strip series writer Jim Lawrence: The Harpies and River of Death.  Artist Yaroslav Horak’s work reflects the style of the era, and his characters have the look of Neal Adams’ comic book art from the 1960s.  And how many stories in comics from the 1960s and 1970s had to include the obligatory harpy story?

A common theme through these four stories is the use of animals in Bond tales.  Octopussy is obvious, with its titular character: Major Smythe’s pet octopus that he subjects to experiments.  In The Hildebrand Rarity, antagonist Milton Krest collects endangered sea life.  Jezebel the pet stoat is a feature of The Harpies, and a monkey, bats, a jaguar and Dr. Cat all factor in to the plot of River of Death.  As M mentions to Bond in River of Death, “Very interesting indeed, James… it’s the third odd case in five months involving an animal.”  That sort of sounds like a comment someone would have made in the office reading all these stories in a row back in the 1960s.

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