• James Bond: Hammerhead

    James Bond: Hammerhead
    Released by: Dynamite Entertainment
    Released on: May 10th,2017.
    Written by: Andy Diggle
    Illustrated by: Luca Casalanguida
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    The first issue of Dynamite Entertainment's second James Bond series opens up in El Torre De David, a slum in the Venezuelan city of Caracas. A man parachutes in under cover of the night, snipping a few guards on his way down. His mask comes off and it's Bond. Of course it's Bond. He tells someone on the other end of his radio that he's made a clean insertion and is going silent. He makes his way down from the rooftop and listens in on a conversation between a man named Saxon and a man named Kraken. It seems Saxon was paid to hack into something on Kraken's behalf but that he was compromised – they know where he is. Kraken also knows that there's a British agent listening in, and he orders Saxon to kill him.

    Bond smashes through the window, a firefight breaks out. He takes out the guards and heads to the computer but it's too late, the data has been purged. He chases Saxon through the building, narrowly preventing him from leaping to his death. Bond wants a name, he wants to know who Kraken is, but once the collar on Saxon's neck starts blinking, he lets him go. KABOOM!

    Cut to MI6 headquarters in London. M is chewing Bond out for not getting the info he was sent to retrieve. They need to know more about Kraken – they know he's anti-capitalist and that Saxon was hired to hack into Hunt, the UK's biggest arms manufacturer, but they don't know anymore than that. Given that Hunt has just been contracted to replace Trident, they figure this has to do with wanting access to the UK's nuclear deterrent. Bond, however, is taken off the assignment and redirected to Dubai where Hunt will be attending the arms fair. Given that Kraken has already identified him, M says it's for the best.

    Bond isn't happy about this at all, until he gets to Dubai and meets his contact, Victoria Hunt. She gives him a tour of the company's private VIP area, where she shows him their latest invention – a rail-gun they've named Hammerhead.

    Bond has received an invitation to a ‘Hunt Gala’ from Lord Bernard Hunt – he showers, shaves, gets dressed and loads a full clip into his Walther. From there, he heads over to the Dubai Aquarium, the location for the party, where he meets up with the beautiful and mysterious Victoria Hunt. They share a drink and make some small talk but as soon as Bond leans in for a kiss, Lord Hunt himself shows up to spoil the moment.

    It turns out Bernard Hunt knew Andrew Bond, James’ father, and that he was quite fond of the man. Things are going just fine, until an explosion opens one of the aquarium tanks and someone starts firing. Lord Hunt is killed and a panic breaks out but ever quick on his feet, Bond takes out the sniper and notices that the rifle he was using was loaded with Aphex rounds. Assuming there will be more snipers outside, Bond hands Victoria his Walther and leads her through the building armed with the recently acquired rifle. A heavily armored masked man appears behind them and tells him that if he gives him the access code to the MI6 mainframe he’ll let Victoria live. Knowing what Aphex rounds are capable of, he shoots upward and the tank above them opens up.

    Bond grabs the assailant, gets his mask off and puts him in a choke hold demanding to know where Kraken is. He doesn’t talk, until Bond attempts to feed him to one of the sharks that got loose when the tank broke open. When the man tells Bond that Kraken is in Charybdis, bond lets the shark have him anyway.

    Upset over the murder of her father, Victoria asks James to promise her that he’ll find the killer and pay him back in kind. He says he will, and she insists that she will help him. The next day she uses the company jet to fly them both to Yemen – the last known location of the mercenaries identified at the aquarium was Al Hajjarah.

    When Victoria Hunt wakes up on her plane, James is nowhere to be seen. She sees a news alert on her phone about a Royal Navy air crash. Outside, Bond is taking of some business when she comes out to him in a panic – she has to leave Yemen now, the crash was related to her facility and with her father now gone, this is going to land on her to deal with. Bond sends her on her way and heads into a nearby warehouse where he picks up his car.

    As he drives across Yemen, he talks to Bill Tanner via video link. Tanner tells him that the car has been fitted by Q-Branch and then discuss the matter at hand. Yemen’s security forces have agreed to hold back in hopes that Bond can help take out some AQAP members but he needs to take care of all of this quickly to avoid an international incident. And so he does. He drives to the safehouse he’s been alerted to where two armed thugs quit their card game to investigate a noise. Bond makes his way in, takes out the first one and quizzes the second about their ties to Kraken. It doesn’t go well, however Bond gets his hands on their laptop and manages to get lucky with a guess on the password.

    He reports back to HQ with some info – the assassination of Victoria Hunt’s father was just the start, Kraken are trying to get ‘something’ to a Yemeni smuggler named Karim Malfakhar. Bond is told that the helicopter that went down, the one Victoria went back to deal with, was carrying a W88 Tident Warhead and that said warhead was not recovered from the crash site. Bond knows where the smuggler operates – Zinjibar – and he heads over there directly to see what he can find. And then that car, the one that was all tricked out for him? It overrides his clearance and turns on him…

    Picking up where the third issue left off, this fourth chapter of the James Bond: Hammerhead storyline starts off at the Black Crannog Nuclear Processing Facility, outer Hebrides. A Helicopter lands and Victoria Hunt comes out, apologizing to the men waiting outside for keeping them waiting. One of these men is Defense Secretary Simon Wallis, and another of these men is M. The Minister is concerned that should word get out that it was a Hunt copter that crashed, and not just a Royal Navy copter, that the share price will drop. He’s called on this by Moneypenny – the real issue at hand here is the missing warhead. They’ve a man in the field on it, trying to bring down KRAKEN, but they’ve lost contact with him.

    Cut to Bond, held captive by armed men on a boat in Yemen. These armed men answer to al-Fanac – The Fox - a cunning smuggler. He orders Bond’s cuffs be taken off, but that the armed guards stay close. KRAKEN wanted al-Fanac to kill Bond, but he did not. Bond sees that they might have enough in common that they could work together, and so they talk. Al-Fanac was not impressed when he found out what he’d been tasked with smuggling. He deals in alcohol and tobacco, not nuclear warheads, and Bond knows that this particular warhead is set to detonate.

    So Bond, being Bond, sets about trying to fix this problem. When he opens the casing he finds that the warhead is… empty. Bond then realizes what’s happened, what Hunt Industries’ role is in all of this and why KRAKEN wants to start a nuclear war. He and al-Fanac and his men board the ship that they know carries the real payload and set out to make things right.

    Moneypenny has her firearm pointed at the back of M’s head. If Victoria Hunt’s armed goons, currently surrounding her, don’t put down their machine guns, she’ll kill him. Hunt doesn’t need M, however. She’s already been ‘handed the keys to the country’ with the contract she just won. Moneypenny turns around to shoot her but she’s not fast enough, one of Hunt’s men takes her down. The Minister Of Defense chimes up to try and put a stop to this and gets a bullet to the brain for his efforts.

    Hunt tells M she’s going to be making some changes at the top and that she’s going to use him to cover this up. Since Britain no longer has control of its nuclear arsenal, she’ll whip London off the map and let KRAKEN take the blame. She’s going to ‘make Britain great again.’ A nuclear terrorist attack in London should be just what they need to convince their allies to go along with them.

    Meanwhile, Bond is alive and well even if nobody realizes it. Karim has flown him to where he needs to go and despite the risk involved in jumping from a low altitude, before you know it Bond is out of the plane with his chute billowing behind him. The men on the submarine, currently on the ocean’s surface, that he’s intending to land on don’t give him much of a welcome – guns drawn, itchy trigger fingers and all of that – until they recognize him. He basically hand delivers this British ship the missing nuclear code. The Captain fills Bond in on what the British military plans to do, but Bond knows Hunt will be expecting them. Given that she has hostages, stealth is the only option.

    The sixth chapter opens with a dramatic page where Bond crawls out of the ocean and onto the Hammerhead rig, a knife in his hand, snipers with night vision goggles perched overhead. He climbs up the ladder and makes short work of them – knives are quiet at least!

    In the control room, Victoria Hunt and her henchmen are alerted to a sensor trip on sub-level four. She knows it’s Bond, that he’s coming for her, and is able to confirm it when she sees him on one of the security monitors. She’s also prepared for it, and she sends out two squads of armed men to take care of him: shoot to kill. Elsewhere, the Navy destroyers are closing in on Hammerhead. Just as the gunner inside the Hammerhead canon begins to take them out, Bond shows up and takes over.

    Victoria radios the Hammerhead gunner and is surprised when Bond answers. She’s not worried – he can’t use the thing, it’s got bio-metric control. Except Bond, being Bond, has found a way around that thanks to their past together and some clever gadgetry from Q-Branch. She commands the rest of her men to take back Hammerhead from Bond, but that won’t be easy. She does have a pretty bargaining chip in the form of that nuclear warhead headed towards London though…

    This was a fun read and this last chapter is pretty much action packed. Of course, we know Bond is going to win the day, there’s no surprise there, but there are some fun twists here in terms of how he goes about doing that. Diggle writes the character well and the interplay between Bond, M and Moneypenny is done in that classic style. There’s also the pre-existing tension between Bond and Victoria Hunt that lends itself well to some good dialogue between the two as the converse while the world seems to be going all to Hell around them.

    Luca Casalanguida’s artwork uses a lot of heavy line work but it’s stylish and evocative and fits Diggle’s story rather well. Chris Blythe’s coloring helps here too, especially during the later scenes that take place on the rig, where it’s appropriately dark and dank looking, and during the scenes where the explosions light everything up. The action in this story flows nicely and Bond is drawn with the right mix of tough guy charisma and macho sex appeal.

    This trade paperback edition collects not only all six issues of the min-series but also contains a variant cover gallery and five pages of rough pencil layouts showing Luca Casalanguida’s creative process – a nice touch!