• James Bond Volume One: Vargr



    James Bond Volume One: Vargr
    Released by: Dynamite Entertainment
    Released on: June 23rd, 2016.
    Written by: Warren Elis
    Illustrated by: Jason Masters
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    The first story arc of the new James Bond series from Warren Ellis and Jason Masters beings in Helsinki, Finland. Here we see a bearded man running through the empty streets in the middle of the night. Snow falls as he makes his way into a construction site. We see he has a cross carved on his forehead – we also see that he’s armed. He makes his way through the site, draws his pistol and takes aim but someone else, someone unseen, shoots first. They exchange fire as he tries to make his way out, but he’s injured after being hit in the back by a cinder block. His assailant comes out of the shadows, a fight ensues and the two men attack one another with shovels.

    The bearded man goes down but again draws his pistol. He tries to fire but he’s not fast enough. He asks the other man who he is and is told that he killed a colleague of his two weeks ago for no other reason than that he loves killing. The murder victim? 008. The man now getting revenge? 007, of course.

    Cut to London. A flophouse. Junkies litter the floor, a band was playing recently. One of the band members introduces a girl to a new drug he picked up in Europe recently, it’s called Green. In the other room, one of his band mates, Cal, is dosed right up, hallucinating as he plays his guitar, blood all over his hand.

    Bond returns to MI6 headquarters. He gets the obligatory flirting with Moneypenny out of the way and heads into M’s office. They discuss the revenge mission and note that M is under pressure to retire the 00 section, but not before giving Bond his latest assignment – taking over 008’s caseload. They’d like him to find and stop someone who is importing a certain drug into the United Kingdom, a new synthetic being made on the European mainland. But before he’s off to Berlin, Bond must, of course, stop by Q’s department on the way. New rules require while travelling through the UK that agents be unarmed. Once he’s in Berlin, he’ll get his firearm back.

    At the airport in Berlin where Bond introduces himself as Hutcheon to a beautiful woman named Reach. She’s to drive him straight to the conference and seems keen on showing him the sights. Once they’re in the car, of course, she addresses him by his real name. They make small talk and then in typical Bond fashion, he flirts with her. She flirts back, mounts him in the back of the car… and then tries to strangle him.

    And she almost gets away with it too. Bond, however, is Bond and he manages to kick the driver hard enough to send the car careening into a truck and after the accident manages not only to escape the wreckage, but to get his luggage out of the trunk as well. All’s well that ends well and while it’s not necessarily proper for a OO agent to walk to the British Embassy, that’s exactly what he does. Here he meets Station Chief Carney who introduces him to Samira Dar and Godwin Soames, and after making small talk the discuss the car incident that just occurred. No one is completely sure who Reach was working for or why the hit was set up.

    Bond and Carney meet behind closed doors at which point the Station Chief hands Bond the latest arrival from Q at MI6… his gun. From there, Bond heads off to meet a man named Slaven Kurjak at his Friedrichshain address, a laboratory where Kurjak researches and experiments with pharmaceuticals and prosthetics. He tells him what he knows about the lab making the cocaine that was causing such a problem in London, and Bond is on his way… hoping to be done with it quickly and to sleep tonight in his own bed.

    Dharma Reach is talking to a certain doctor Kurjak about the failing of her mission – but he’s got a backup plan, and he’s more than willing to put that into action.

    Meanwhile, Bond is skulking around in the shadows, poking around a warehouse undercover of the darkness. He lets himself in and sees a gang of men packing up narcotics for shipment, possibly to the UK. It turns out that he’s been ‘sent to the wrong party’ and that the guys he’s watching right now are part of a Lebanese-German terrorist organization called Al-Zein. Bond discretely sends a text to mission control, but they opt to wait it out. He’s outnumbered and outgunned, but he’s Bond. A firefight breaks out and a lot of people die, some quite bloodily. He’s able to question one of the men, one who speaks English, as he lies on the floor bleeding out. The guy says he doesn’t know Slaven Kurjak and that they’re not importing into the UK because all the money is in Europe.

    Bond leaves the warehouse alive, unaware that he’s being watched by Dharma who is reporting back to Kurjak who tells her that they’re going into ‘condition Vargr.’ When Bond stops off for a nightcap, an assassin show up at the Berlin bureau, guns blazing…

    Bond is strolling down a perfectly normal sidewalk on a perfectly normal evening enjoying a perfectly normal cigarette. He’s mistaken for a Mr. Hutcheon by a man who introduces himself as Masters. Of course, each man knows who the other is, and ‘Masters’ tells Bond that Al-Zein hit the station and that there were no survivors (tying in to issue #3). They need to find a secure location, and so they do.

    Bond makes a call on his cell. He tells Hutcheon, who is aware that Al-Zein is monitoring their phones, that it’s a personal call. And it seems that way, but those who receive it know that Bond is speaking in code. And those on the other end are acutely aware of what he’s talking about.

    Bond and Hutcheon visit the scene of the crime. Bodies are everywhere. Shortly after, a not so naïve Bond makes a move against Hutcheon, who he knows is not what he seems. It gets rough – bones break, eyes are gouged, bodies are slammed, broken glass becomes an instrument of death. Bond, however, is the smarter of the two combatants and of course, being Bond, comes out the victor. He knows who his foe works for – Slaven Kurjak – the same man who employed Ms. Reach, the one with the hands. Bond wants Kurjak, he’s willing to kill to get him… but Kurjak has gone to Vargr.

    “This is how the world should be, controlled with experiments.” And Britain, being an island and all, is basically a giant concentration camp…

    We won’t spoil anything from here on out but it all leads up to a surprisingly brutal but ridiculously entertaining finale. The plot, as you’d expect, thickens. We get a bit more info about Reach and her motivations that tie her to the Kurjakmedizin building’s more nefarious behind the scenes operations and at the same time, see Bond return to England in what will probably result in some of the loose ends from earlier issues being tied up. Ellis’ story is engaging, bringing the right mix of action, suspense, character development and quirky humor to the book with a very natural and even handed flow to it. He manages to stay true to the roots of the Bond character while still managing to tell a great story set in the modern age with all those newfangled gadgets like smart phones coming into play.

    Masters’ art has improved over the first few issues and that improvement is really noticeable in the later chapters. The backgrounds are still a little sparse in a few panels but there seems to be more attention to detail here than was evident in the first three chapters of the story. The fight scenes are more fluid and illustrated with enough punch that when Bond and Dharma Reach land blows, they really do look like they hurt. Facial expressions are more effective here too. The coloring work from Guy Majors suits the dark tone of the story and the series’ regular covers from Dom Reardon does a nice job of making you take notice and want to see what lies underneath.

    In addition to the six issues that make up the Vargr storyline, this trade paperback includes some ‘bonus material’ starting with a pretty massive cover gallery that collects each and everyone one of the variants that were produced for each of the half a dozen issues from this run. Additionally we get some character sketch pages and concept art pages from Masters that are cool to see.