• James Bond: Black Box (Hardcover)

    James Bond: Black Box (Hardcover)
    Released by: IDW Publishing
    Released on: October 18th, 2017.
    Written by: Benjamin Percy
    Illustrated by: Rapha Lobosco
    Purchase From Amazon

    In the French alps, a cable car makes its way up the mountainside. A Frenchman warns his passenger, Agent 007, about the temperature but Bond never was the type of man who backed down from a challenge. He dons his skies and launches himself down the slopes, his internal monologue letting us in on his appreciation for the cold’s numbing effects.

    He reaches a cabin in the woods, assembles his sniper rifle, and prepares to kill a man who kills men. His target’s name is Andre Moreau, a Corsican assassin who has taken out three English dignitaries. His kills were cruel, nasty even. Bond gets his target in his sights but before he pulls the trigger someone beats him to it, being careful not to hit the pretty blonde woman entertaining Moreau in the cabin. What Bond doesn’t realize is that he’s being watched, targeted by someone else with a sniper rifle. This leads to Bond chasing the assassin down the rest of the slope, both parties on skies.

    They make it across the mountain highway, narrowly avoiding death by flatbed, and head towards the ski resort’s main base. Here a young girl gets in the way of the sniper. He dodges so as not to run her over and winds up flying through the glass window of the chalet restaurant. Bond catches up to the sniper and realizes very quickly that it’s a beautiful woman. Beautiful but dangerous. She smacks him in the face with her headgear and takes off.

    The next day, at Vauxhall Cross MI6 Headquarters, Bond tells M that the woman had a Highland accent. M doesn’t care – after all, she did their dirty work for them. Problem solved, right? M tells Bond of a hack, no money was moved around but the hackers got information, the kind of information that the government would rather not be made public. High ranking officials could very well have their dirty laundry made public. M would rather that not be the case. Everyone has a skeleton or two in their closet, right? 007 needs to take care of this, to make the matter go quiet. And with that, he’s off to Tokyo and officially assigned to Operation Black Box. His mission? Get rid of the digital treasure chest and eliminate those who snatched the intel in the first place. He meets up with Q, Major Boothroyd for those enamored with Dr. No era Bond, and gets his gear. But Bond? He’s more interested in finding out who that redhead is…

    We arrive on the streets of Tokyo in the Shinjuku District. Bond heads into what looks like an average noodle house, but he knows better. Soon enough he’s lead behind the curtain into the backroom, before he’s frisked and sent down a hidden elevator. Once he reaches the lowest level he exists into an underground Yakuza owned casino – the high stakes tables are over in the left corner.

    But Bond isn’t just here for fun. A massive data breach has targeted a lot of high ranking British officials and all signs point to a Yakuza-affiliated tech expert named Saga Genji. He just so happens to live in this area. There are a lot of questions though – they don’t know if he even did it and if he did, what he intends to do with the data. So Bond is in town basically to snoop, to try and sort this out – but what he does know is that Genji is a Friday night regular at this place. He tries his luck, and a little later, he wins. The mysterious Genji, clad in a white suit and some strange glasses, sits down at the poker table next to him. There are no limits.

    The men talk, while in the aquarium tanks around them, sharks circle and then close in on their prey. A fitting metaphor. Bond asks about the glasses, the visor, and Genji explains that they were developed for VR gaming but became more practical when he started losing his eye sight. He’s come up with a system to wire them into a port on the back of his head, creating a unique blend of organic and digital sight. When Bond wins the hand, things get less friendly. Genji asks him why he’s really here. Bond’s response? “Information, the compromising kind.” Genji’s interest is piqued, and he takes Bond to a backroom where he’s forced to fight – and then addressed by Genji as “Agent 007.”

    Both men seem unaware that they’re being watched by a redheaded woman, but once she forces her way into the casino, they both figure it out pretty quickly.

    The third issue of Benjamin Percy’s Black Box storyline starts off in the Shinjuku District of Tokyo where Bond and his new ‘friend’ Selah Sax, former British Special Services and Group 13 operative, runs with him out of the casino where it all just hit the fan. They take shelter in one of Japan’s infamous ‘love’ hotels – Bond figures this is his lucky night, even if he doesn’t know why she’s helping him or why his dossier lists her as deceased – that is, until she cuffs him to that cross on the wall at gun point, tells him his mission is compromised, and leaves him there. She also tells him that since he’s dishonored Saga Genji in public that he’ll ‘erase’ him as soon as possible. Bond knows she’s right.

    Outside Tokyo, Genji meets with a man he refers to as No Name. They have tea together and admire No Name’s collection of Death Masks. There’s room for one more – Bond. Genji fills him in on his target while No Name suits up.

    Boothroyd, none too happy to have rescued Bond from a ‘sex dungeon,’ scolds 007 for letting Sax get away – until Bond lets him in on a secret: he was able to use Boothroyd’s technology to clone her phone. As they work to decrypt it Bond theorizes that Sax has gone rogue, now working as an assassin that kills other assassins. Boothroyd then sends Bond back into the field – Genji is sponsoring a Sumo Wrestling tournament tonight and Bond needs to be there.

    Cut to the Kokugikan Arena in Tokyo, where the Sumo match is about to begin. Bond skulks about, thinking about his opponent, Saga, until he’s interrupted by none other than Felix Leiter. Felix makes small talk with Bond and his friend Tommy, and then he gets a tracker on 007 and splits. Bond is focused on his target, hoping he can get close enough to capture the signal emitted and received by Saga’s glasses. Saga, however, is more concerned with entertaining a certain diplomat he’s made sure has a front row seat to the match. As the wrestling ensues, things take a dark and twisted turn, leaving Bond a little off guard when No Name, clad in a death mask, shows up with a knife in his hand…

    The forth chapter of Black Box starts off in Tokyo. Bond is racing down the streets of the city perused by armed assailants on motorcycles. He’s in contact with Boothroyd, he needs to know what the Aston Martin he’s currently driving can do to help him get out of this rather dangerous situation. Thankfully, despite the weak pound the car is equipped with machine gun turrets in the rear bumper. Once engaged, Bond finds these quite handy in eliminating the Yakuza that had been tailing him, but he doesn’t get them all and soon enough the tires on his car, while protected, eventually give way to machine gun fire and start to shred.

    With no other choice, Bond pilots the car down a crowded side street, through the street vendors and their carts set up there. He brings the car to a stop, gets out with his Walther in hand, and prepares to deal with the two Yakuza that have made it this far. Just as it looks like it’s about to get ugly, Selah Sex shows up in a car, takes out the bad guys and whisks him off to safety… sort of. See, one of the motorcyclists isn’t dead, just wounded, and not so wounded that he can’t get off a quick round that hits Bond in the shoulder. Regardless, he makes it into the car and passes out.

    Of course, as this is a Bond story, he wakes up a few hours later, his wounds all bandaged up. He’s lying in Sax’s bed and she’s nude in the shower. She invites him in and he notes that a little injury isn’t going to stop him from going undercover (ha!). As Bond has shower sex with the alluring redhead, we do learn that Boothroyd cracked the encryption on her phone and that Bond now knows Sax was once a member of the British Special Forces and then a special ops agent for Group 13 who walked away from everything when she saw her crew taken out by an IED at Fallujah. Since then she’s worked as an assassin who takes out other assassins – atonement. Or is it exorcism?

    But what about Saga Genshi and the black box that Bond has been tasked with destroying? They’ve honed in on the GPS signal Genshi’s heart monitor emits, but they’re not in a race against time to get to him and collect the dirty laundry on the rest of the world before someone beats them to it…

    Picking up where the last issue left off, Bond is alone in the so-called Suicide Forest of Japan, a dark heavily wooded area in Aokigahra littered with the corpses of those who have chosen to end their own lives. Bond knows he’s been trailed by the assassin that followed him from the Sumo tournament, and that this killer would love nothing more than to take him as his latest trophy. He also knows that Saga Genshi is the one who has bankrolled the hit. Bond knows his new friend Selah is out there, but he can’t call out to her lest he give away his location to the assassin.

    Soon enough, the masked killer comes up behind him, the sound of his blade just enough to alert 007 to his presence. They fight, but it ends with Bond running back into the cover of darkness – just before Selah shows up. Together they manage to deal with their assailant, and Selah does her damnedest to make sure he’s dead. They swipe his phone, hoping it will lead to some clues, but leave the scene before confirming that the would-be killer is as dead as they believe.

    Back in London at MI6 headquarters at Vauxhall Cross, Moneypenny tells M that Genshi has made his move and is offering information on ‘enemy’ states in exchange for cash. Meaning that the UK has been offered info on China and the US info on Russia, clearly an attempt at global destabilization. M knows that if Bond gets that black box back to the UK, it’ll not only save the world from an information war but also posit Great Britain as the most powerful country on the planet.

    Elsewhere, Bond and Selha travel by train as she apologizes for killing the assassin we know isn’t dead. They talk about death, about the morality of killing a few to save the masses. They talk about their scars, physical and mental. As they talk, they’re interrupted by none other than Felix Leiter. Bond realizes if they’ve been followed that the C.I.A. need them more than they need the C.I.A. – and then Felix lets on about what’s really in Genshi’s black box. If everyone’s on the same train heading in the same direction to get to the same man, might as well work together, right? The Chinese, the Germans and the Russians already have agents out in the field but it’s 007 who seems one step ahead of the competition. Bond takes care of Felix, tells Selah that the plan has changed, and then proceeds to follow orders…

    Bond is beneath the nuclear reactor in Fukashima. He stealthily makes his way through the different guards posted along his path, each hit getting him closer to his target – Saga Genshi. He needs to get his hands on that black box before Genshi uses the information it contains to turn allies into enemies and set the world into disarray. At the same time, he has to wonder to himself if succeeding this time around will do more harm than good.

    He makes his way through the laser trap and into the belly of this atomic beast where he then comes face to face with Genshi’s enforcer, that wrestler he shot four times the night before. It’s inevitable that they fight – they have to at this point, but the man in the mask tells Bond that they’ve got the girl. That changes things, that makes it personal.

    Off the coast of Japan, there are those who would like to get through to 007 but can’t because of a presumed signal jammer that Genshi is running. MI6 and Boothroyd know that there are agents of other countries in the area also after that black box. Bond has half an hour to do his thing before the British military moves in to ensure that they get to it first.

    And so Bond does what Bond does… all of which leads to the final showdown with Genji where, quite literally, the fate of the world as we know it hangs in the balance.

    Benjamin Percy’s six issue storyline comes to a satisfying conclusion with this issue. We’re not reinventing the wheel here as far as Bond’s character is concerned – Bond is Bond and there are defined character traits that we require for this to remain the case. That’s well covered here. Where the story gets more interesting and unique is with the character of Saga Genshi and his very specific and very modern day plot. Rather than use a rogue nuclear warhead or something like that to destroy the world he’s instead found a way to harvest the world’s secrets and compile them into what is essentially one giant hard drive. In a day and age where enemy states are now digitally interfering in elections, this concept doesn’t really seem so farfetched and Percy writes it all really well. As such, we get the typical Bond that we want but set against an atypical foe. It makes for good, suspenseful reading. Rapha Lobosco’s artwork, nicely colored by Chris O’Halloran, does a nice job of bringing the action to the forefront of the book. The first few pages where Bond makes his way through the underground bunker are really nicely laid out and quite dramatic. He uses shadows really well here too – it’s a nice looking issue and a fine way to bring the storyline to a close.

    In addition to reprinting the six issues that make up this storyline, this hardcover collection also includes a ‘bonus material’ section in the back pages. Here you’ll find a collection of alternate cover art pieces, and an article from The Oregonian where write Benjamin Percy talks to Will Nevin about his work on the series. We also get some notes from Percy to Lobosco that break down the first issue basically in script form alongside some thumbnails of Lobosco’s layouts.