James Bond Volume 2: Eidolon by Warren Ellis and Jason Masters (graphic novel review).

The next volume of Warren Ellis’ take on James Bond, ‘Eidolon’, follows many of the same beats he established in his first story ‘Vargr’ (which was reviewed here Again, Bond is the archetypal blunt instrument, sent in to do the government’s dirty work. He’s cold, efficient and ruthless and the globetrotting playboy we’ve come to know through the cinematic portrayal of 007 is somewhat absent. Yet, while ‘Eidolon’ is still a rough and hard-edged thriller, there is a slight softening of the ambient harshness to at least let a smattering of extremely dry humour come through.

James Bond arrives in New York to extract an MI6 agent whose covert cover, while working in the Turkish Consulate, has been blown. After an evening with the confident Ms. Birdwhistle and three violent encounters the next day, 007 soon discovers that rogue elements within security forces across the globe are being activated. With evidence from Birdwhistle, who has been following a trail of money, MI6 starts to uncover evidence of an organisation called Eidolon that may have compromised security agencies the world over. But with MI5 tasked with internal security and the so-called ‘Hard Rule’ meaning MI6 can’t carry guns within the UK, just who can defend the UK from the enemies inside its borders and who can actually be trusted?

Once again, Ellis plays with the world of Bond as he veers between satirising the more outré elements of the 007 mythos and paying straight homage to Fleming’s original character. The main antagonist is another who comes from the Bond villain playbook, all heavily scarred and seemingly unstoppable. But his brutal methods veer towards disturbing realism while his motivations lampshade the usual machinations of the Bond bad guy: ‘I don’t have some giant super-villain plan. I want to get paid.

The clichéd Bond girl is also subverted with Birdwhistle, whose faintly ridiculous name is given a perfectly rational explanation, a luxury rarely afforded to Bond girls of the past. While she falls into the arms of Bond, there’s a large hint that she rather more domineering than some of 007’s previous conquests. She still feels something of a cipher but this is less to do with poor characterisation and more reflecting Bond’s world. Any vaguely close attachments are made with those he works with in MI6. Everyone else drifts in and out of his life as his current mission demands. But while Bond is still very much portrayed as a cold professional, he’s also given the little moments of humanity and inherent traits that we’ve come to associate with Bond, these include the very dry humour and the almost fetishistic approach to food and drink as here he demands a very specific kind of whiskey.

Fans will also enjoy the little nods to Bond history, including a brief cameo by Felix Leiter and a reference to Bond’s distaste for New York which, as those who have read the short story ‘Bond In New York’ will know, was a reflection of Fleming’s real life dislike of the city.

There’s lots of action here, including a number of car chases and hard hitting fight sequences. Those who found ‘Vargr’ brutal will find little let-up here, the effects of bullets on human flesh are rendered unflinchingly while there is also a particular gruesome torture sequence which, in another subversion of the usual trappings of Bond, sees 007 as the instigator. Like ‘Vargr’, Bond is rather confined to the more mundane parts of the world. The exotic casinos and five star hotels are replaced with a sleepy English village and the back streets of London.

Dynamite’s ‘James Bond’ series has been something of a breath of fresh air for Bond fans, delivering a complex hero that is both of the past yet decidedly very much of the now. ‘Eidolon’ is an exciting and engaging story though it is somewhat grim. It will be interesting to see where Andy Diggle, the former 2000AD editor who takes over from Ellis in the next story, ‘Hammerhead’, takes 007 next.

Laurence Boyce

February 2017

(pub: Dynamite Entertainment. 152 page hardcover. Price £22.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-52410-272-2)

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Laurence Boyce

Laurence Boyce is a film journalist who likes Bond, Batman and Doctor Who (just to prove the things he enjoys things that don't just start with a 'B'). He is also a film programmer for various film festivals in the UK and abroad.

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