• James Bond: Kill Chain (Hardcover)

    James Bond: Kill Chain (Hardcover)
    Released by: Dynamite Entertainment
    Released on: April 11th, 2018.
    Written by: Andy Diggle
    Illustrated by: Luca Casalanguida
    Purchase From Amazon

    Note, there are spoilers here as this review is for the collected edition of a mini-series that ended four months ago, fair game.

    James Bond: Kill Chain starts in the snowy hills of the Taymyr Peninsula in Russia where two men prepare, their ‘Hooded Falcon’ now ready to fly. They talk of strength being found not in the hand, but in the heart, and how they have the smarts and the conviction needed to do battle with their enemy.

    Elsewhere, James Bond spars with a beautiful silver haired woman named Rika. He moves in to kiss her, she bites him and flips him over and then issues him her demand – “I want to be on top.” A short while later as she shows, he opens a hidden safe in her apartment and erases the contents of a flash drive. Rika comes out of the shower and finds a note and a rose on her pillow that reads “Duty calls.” She makes a phone call and tells whoever is on the other end that “He bought it.”

    In Rotterdam, Holland, Bond is told in a debriefing that they’ve confirmed Rika Van De Havik is a rogue agent and that it’s lucky they caught her in time as she was earmarked for 00 status. Bond is told to get to the meeting, witness the handover and then to eliminate Rika. Bond follows orders and heads out to the bridge where he sees Rika meet with a man with grey hair and glasses. The man is identified as C.I.A. but before Bond can do anything, a sniper takes him out. Bond is ordered to take out Rika, and he tries, but after he shoots her she falls into the river below. Bond notices the sniper in a boat and gives chase, causing quite a mess on the way, but before he can get any information from him the man leaps to his death.

    And then we learn what really happened to Rika, and what’s next on her ‘to do’ list…

    The second issue of James Bond: Kill Chain opens up in London where M tells Bond that the C.I.A. believe he killed their man in Rotterdam. Bond didn’t do it, he intercepted the sniper but left the body in the street where the Dutch authorities made it disappear. The Americans and the British alike are denying any involvement with Rika Van De Havik but more importantly the U.S. is going back on the intelligence sharing agreement that they had. ‘Freezing us out’ as M puts it. Clearly there’s more to this than either man realizes.

    Regardless, M gives Bond his next assignment – a deep cover agent in German, codenamed Hobnail, was infiltrating a right wing terror cell only to be found dead with ‘S.S.’ carved into his chest. Given that the sniper Bond took out in Rotterdam gave a ‘Sieg Heil’ before falling off the roof, maybe there’s a connection. Bond heads down to Q Division, he’s armed to the teeth and briefed by Boothroyd on the capabilities of his new toys. They also talk sniper rifles. The main idea here is to ‘follow the money’ to try and figure out how military grade weapons have been making it into civilian hands. They talk about Hobnail’s work, how he narrowed things down to a Nazi skinhead club in Munich. Where Hobail had six months to earn the trust of these scumbags, Bond isn’t afforded that luxury. M needs results before the upcoming NATO security summit.

    Cut to Munich – Bond finds the club and makes his way inside, it doesn’t look like much more than a dive bar. The bartender tells him, in German, that he doesn’t belong here – Bond takes that opportunity to provoke him and the patrons into a fight that he quickly dominates. With the riff raff unconscious, 007 then picks the lock and makes his way into the back room…and that’s where things get complicated.

    The third issue opens in Geneva where Bond outbids Madame Chevalier on a valuable antique watch. He sits down beside her, she outbids him, he goes higher… until he feels the end of a pistol in his back. Chevalier wins the auction and heads over to deal with it while the man with the gun in Bond’s back walks him out of the room into the back warehouse where a few other armed men are waiting. They force him to hand over his wallet, his Walther and then unlock his phone – he obliges, but these men aren’t all that familiar with what Q can do – the phone blows up, giving Bond the advantage. He retrieves his Walther, takes out two of the three assailants and is surprised to see Chevalier show up to take out the third.

    It appears that Chevalier is French Intelligence and that Bond has just blown ‘a very expensive operation.’

    More armed men enter, they open fire on the two of them but they make their escape out the window, commandeer a van and take off with the cache. As they drive, they talk. It seems they were both after the ‘money man’ and Bond thought it was Chevalier while Chevalier thought it was Bond. It seems that this watch and other valuables stolen by the Nazis in the Second World War have recently started showing up at auctions like this. Someone is making a lot of money off of these stolen antiquities and given that they’re now being chased by men on motorcycles with guns, it seems that person doesn’t want to give this operation up without a fight.

    Bond tells Chevalier what she already knows – whoever is selling these antiques is using the money to arm extremists all across Europe. Rochet is the financier. When they open the back of the van and find out what’s inside, they realize they got very lucky. Chevalier takes off in the van with the valuables, while Bond? He heads right into the thick of it… to find out who is behind Operation Hooded Falcon.

    Cut to NATO headquarters in Brussels. Here American General James Garrett, the U.S. Director Of National Intelligence, is threatening to pull out of the ‘Five Eyes’ program, the intelligence sharing program that has been the backbone of NATO for years. Garrett reminds M that disengagement isn’t only an American tactic these days, but a British one as well. M reminds him that populist politicians don’t typically have a very good grasp on reality.

    It’s then that Garrett tells M that they know their C.I.A. agent was targeted by the 00 division to keep the Americans away from intel the British didn’t want to share. The Americans got it anyway. M retaliates, says that the Cold War never really ended, it just turned into a Shadow War. He tells Garrett he’s being used.

    Bond is also in Brussels. He calls Tanner, explains what he knows about Operation Hooded Falcon and warns that M may be next in the ‘tit for tat’ killings that have been going on. Bond is also trailing Rika Van Dehavik, a deadly assassin who is clearly not as dead as was originally thought. Bond is asked to take her alive, but he makes no promises. Elsewhere a transport truck bearing a Universal Exports logo on the side is remote controlled into the middle of the city where it opens up and unleashes scores of small drones. Bond makes his way into the hotel where Rika is staying, busts open the door to her room and finds a load of surveillance gear and a note that reads ‘duty calls’ but no Rika. On one of the screens he sees the drone swarm in action, heading to the NATO building. He calls Tanner and orders that M be brought to safety but is then attacked by armed men who carry him out of the building. The drones make their way to the NATO building and do what they’re supposed to do.

    And then we find out who really kidnapped Bond and why.

    The events that have taken place in Norway, Germany, Italy and France now lead up to what’s happening in Brussels. Moneypenny ensures Q that the building has been swept, and so they head into the restaurant for breakfast. They don’t know for sure where 007 is, but she suspects an unregistered aircraft that just landed outside Bastogne may have something to do with him. With the Americans after him, they need him to lay low. And then, of course, they look up and recognize their waiter as Bond.

    They get into M’s car where he explains to Bond how intelligence sharing has been shut down and agents are turning up dead. NATO is feuding and covert operations are being exposed as Russian tanks are showing up in the Baltics. M figures Russia’s end game is to invade and gives Bond ‘carte blanche to operate as you see fit’ though they will officially deny anything that comes of this, he’ll be ‘persona non grata.’ Bond wants to know where Rika Van De Havik is – the last they know, she took a flight to Turkey.

    In Incirlik, Group Captain Mowbray opens up a large parcel that’s just arrived to find 007 stowed away inside. M figured this was the best way to get him there. They talk about the situation and then Mowbray brings Bond inside the hold where he shows him their one prisoner – Rika – who won’t tell them anything. When Bond sings, Mowbray and his crew draw their weapons…

    Cut back to a NATO airbase in Incirlik, Turkey. Rika Van De Havik and her crew are just about to make it out on a plane they’ve commandeered when Bond shows up in an SUV on the runway. He chases the plane and manages to get close enough to leap out and grab onto a wheel before it lifts off and the SUV crashes into a barricade and bursts into flames. Unfortunately for Bond, he can’t actually get into the plane, so he spends a considerable amount of time under the fuselage clinging tightly for dear life.

    At MI6 Operations headquarters in London, M gets a message from Bond that does not bode well. Russian tanks are advancing on the Baltics and a European blackout is imminent. M requests immediate contact with the Secretary General.

    In that plane, however, Rika is celebrating, they’re about to pull it off. Europe will be blacked out and they’ll be able to take over the NATO satellite systems. How? They’re uploading a virus to the NATO plane currently refueling them, and of course this is unbeknownst to everyone but them… and the guest they don’t know about. When Bond manages to get the plane’s electrical system to cause an alert on the leg he’s holding onto, a crony is sent to look at it – he opens the door and unwittingly gives Bond the entrance he needs. He makes his way through the plane towards the cockpit, taking out anyone that gets in his way.

    On that NATO fuel plane, they wise up to what’s happening but their systems are no longer their own to control, they can’t stop it. They disengage the fuel line but it catches fire and the plane loses a wing – but did they manage to stop the upload from completing?

    Bond, meanwhile, comes face to face with Rika Van De Havik…

    This six issue run ends on a serious bang, literally and figuratively, with what is hands down the most action-intensive issue you can imagine. It’s non-stop, really, Bond is in killing machine mode here, because he knows better than anyone, even the higher ups and MI6, how important it is that he complete his mission. Diggle writes this well. If this issue isn’t super dialogue heavy it doesn’t need to be because the characters are properly established at this point, what’s left to do here is to bring things to a close. Which is exactly what he does in a very ‘Bond appropriate’ style, maintaining the series’ modern slant (a big part of it since Warren Ellis wrote the first issue a couple of years ago) while still tying very strongly into the character’s roots. And like every good Bond story should, this one resolves the current storyline while still leaving the door open for a sequel (personally, I would not be opposed to that at all).

    Luca Casalanguida has done a very fine job with the artwork since the inception of Kill Chain. Aided by strong coloring work from Chris Blythe, the book has a slick and effective look to it that fits the story nicely. The action scenes in particular are quite dynamic and well laid out, there’s a great sense of movement (particularly in the opening SUV/plane chase) and the fight scenes hit hard.

    All in all, a very strong run from Diggle and Casalanguida. Here’s hoping Dynamite gets them back on another Bond run sooner rather than later.

    In addition to reprinting the six issues that make up the Kill Chain storyline, this hardcover edition also includes a cover gallery, an interview that Andy Diggle did with Will Nevin of The Oregonian that discusses the story, and a few pages showing Diggle’s scripted pages giving us a look at his creative process.