• James Bond: The Complete Warren Ellis Omnibus (Dynamite Entertainment) Graphic Novel Review



    Released by: Dynamite Entertainment
    Released on: June 3rd, 2020.
    Written by: Warren Ellis
    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.

    This omnibus also includes the complete Eidolon storyline. When it begins, a man is tied to a chair. He’s nervous, he’s making excuses about some errors he made, errors that relate to someone’s finances. That someone is Mr. Hawkwood and he’s not happy that this man ‘exposed the work.’ After talking briefly about his past, his facial scars that make him stand out, his business working in the shadows as a spy, Hawkwood kills the man in the chair, telling him ‘No one was supposed to know about Eidolon.’

    At Whitehall in London a man named Stephen Mackmain visits an Undersecretary Of State named John. They talk about the differences that exist these days between MI5 (domestic security) and MI6 (foreign intelligence) and why, or why not, the MI6 agents should be running around England armed to the teeth. One MI6 agent in particular stands out – Bond.

    When we catch up with him he’s in Los Angeles to meet Felix Leiter, a C.I.A. agent. They know why Bond is here, to get an MI6 agent from the Turkish consulate. MI6 believes her cover has been blown and they want to get her back to the UK. Felix has been trailing Bond, so he says, to make sure that the operation is kept quiet – he hands him his gear and sends him on his way.

    Bond finds the agent, Candice Birdwhistle, on her lunch break. He tells her he’s with the 00 section and she pays attention. Under some protest he gets her in the car just in time – it looks like the Turks have sent a kill team after her and Bond does what he does best – he takes care of the situation. He does wonder, however, why the Turks are using C.I.A. issue Glocks…and what was Birdwhistle working on that got these Turks so upset in the first place?

    The second chapter of Warren Ellis and Jason Masters’ Eidolon storyline continues Bond’s exploits in Los Angeles. He checks into the Shimmer Hotel as Mr. Vauxhall, with Cadance Birdwhistle in tow. The attendant perks up at the name – it seems he’s expected. They’ll get her some luggage and sanitize the car for him. She addresses him as 007 and tells him that the manager will be in touch.

    Bond and Cadance head to their room – this is an ‘off the books’ MI6 safehouse – and Bond pours them each a glass of bourbon. She’s not impressed but thanks him for saving her life. Then they discuss the sleeping arrangements. There’s only one bed, after all. They flirt, they embrace and then they kiss. She orders some champagne and two belts from room service.

    The next morning they head to the airport to catch their flight. Cadance heads to the restroom, Bond insists she use the one in the private lounge. On the way there, two men get into the elevator with them. Bad idea. Bond takes them out, mercilessly, takes one of the victims’ cell phone’s out and texts pictures of their corpses to Felix Leiter. Bond says these guys were CIA. From there, they take a plane to London. They meet up with Chambers ‘from the office’ who directs them to a private exit after their flight and fills them in on what the CIA has been doing – M wants Bond’s head on a stick for this.

    They get into their car, and then two men in ski masks attack them…

    The third chapter of Warren Ellis’ Eidolon storyline starts in a meeting room. Moneypenny brings in Senior MI5 Field Officer Eve Sharma to meet with Bond, Chief Of Staff Bill Tanner and with M. Bond needs no introduction to Sharma, she knows who he is, and from there she explains what it is that she wants – the case where two MI6 agents were killed at Heathrow should be handled as a domestic security issue and should therefore fall under the jurisdiction of MI5 and not MI6. M disagrees but she counters by noting that the assault was conducted with a UGL fitted weapon – special forces. But Bond calls her on it, he knows she’s up to something. Trying to find out what they know, likely, and when he says as much she doesn’t like it.

    They send her on her way.

    Meanwhile, Birdwhistle is poking around the computer files looking for clues and she finds one – but it’s behind an encrypted defense. They call in some help and hack past it – MI5 security is what it looks like – and once they do Birdwhistle finds what she’s looking for. It seems someone in MI5 has been moving large amounts of money into something called Strategic Fleet Reserve. M suspects this has to do with the government’s ‘box tunnel’ program in which they hold onto old technology, things like steam engines for example, that could very well come in handy if England were to have to go off the grid.

    Bond is sent to investigate but is told he’ll carry no identification and that this is, if he is caught, a deniable investigation. It wouldn’t look good if he were to be caught spying on MI6, after all. He’s sent to Q Division and outfitted with a revolver and then sent on his way. Two hours later he’s making his way into the tunnel and once inside, who does he see but Hawkwood arguing with some heavily armed men, and those same heavily armed

    . Bond makes his way through the train yard undercover of the darkness, shooting his way across and using a well-timed explosive device to cause a distraction. When he comes face to face with the fifth and final man in the tunnel, the man asks him to take him to doctor. He’s injured. Bond simply replies ‘No’ and knocks him out. Ruthless!

    The man wakes up in a safe house of some sort, Bond and a hooded associate, Bill from the CIA, wielding box cutters. This guy might have been trained to resist torture, but it’s not going to be enough. Back at MI-6 headquarters, Bond is in M’s office with Birdwhistle and Bill who explains to them that Eidolon is a ‘system of SPECTRE stay-behinds.’ These were secret groups scattered about Europe during World War II to keep an eye on things and act on them should Britain feel it necessary. SPECTRE was taken out but these four person splinter cells are obviously still around and the British cell might just contain a high ranking MI-5 member named… Hawkwood. It’s all starting to tie together now. It was Hawkwood’s team that tried to kill Bond and Birdwhistle at Heathrow. Clearly there’s an Eidolon cell alive and well inside MI-5, and its members are out to get MI-6. The big question now… is why?

    Eve Sharma meets with Bond. M meets with MI-5’s Sir Stephen Mackmain and the Commissioner. Clearly this is a matter of domestic security, but if MI-5, in charge of domestic security, is compromised, then what?

    London. Birdwhistle talks on the phone to Bond about her plans now that EIDOLON seems to have been taken care of. She’s to be testifying in front of a group of MP’s – but gets the chills when she spots Hawkwood, his face instantly recognizable from the scars, starring at her. He escapes but she tells Bond she’s seen him. He tells her to keep cool and take cover in Portcullis house. He’s a hundred yards away and two other agents are nearby – they’ve been doing security detail, you see.

    One of those agents confronts Hawkwood face to face, thinking he’s got the upper hand – nope. That ends badly. The second agent, a hulking behemoth of a man, tells Hawkwood to stand down, but again, that’s not going to happen. When Hawkoond wins that second round he gets close enough to Birdwhistle that she cleverly stabs him in the throat with a pen. This allows her to get into Portcullis and to alert the heavily armed guards at the entrance to the problem at hand.

    Hawkwood makes it to a cab and meets up with his crew – they still have that massive explosive device and are quite prepared to use it – while Bond calls in for help before giving chase. As Bond chases the truck, he notes that it’s going in a different direction – towards MI6 headquarters.

    Bond does what he can to stop him, onlookers take selfies, and… well, we won’t spoil the ending but it’s a solid finale to Ellis’ second story arc in the Dynamite/Bond universe. Loose ends are tied up without locking certain characters out of future storylines, and the ‘big finish’ is both interesting and appropriate for Bond’s character and Hawkwood’s character alike. There’s a pleasing sense of closure to this issue that suits the storyline and everything that it has built towards and at the same time, it remains appropriately ‘Bond’ in how it is all delivered. Our super spy puts his life on the line like he always does, he’s tough and determined to get the job done – again, not a surprise. The twists come from the other characters, in how Ellis’ writing places a predictable character like Bond in unpredictable circumstances such as those encountered in this storyline, letting us see how he reacts to them. It’s a clover modus operandi, and it makes for good comics.

    Jason Masters’ artwork, colored as always by Guy Majors, has done nothing but improve in the last few issues. Backgrounds are becoming more interesting to look out and more ‘fleshed out’ in that there isn’t as much blank space as there was in the earlier entries. The detail has always been there, but it’s more obvious now, his penciling is really bent on making us appreciate the architecture of certain locations and in seeing the expressions on the faces of certain characters. There’s good movement and flow here, the action feels ‘right’ and the violence hits hard. Majors’ coloring suits this all really well, and once you throw in an effectively minimalist cover piece by Dom Reardon, well, you start to see why those that have been reading this since the first issue have been raving about it since the first issue.

    This omnibus edition, in addition to reprinting the twelve issues that Warren Ellis wrote, also includes a sketchbook featuring five pages' worth of concept and design artwork from Jason Masters and an alternate cover gallery showing off the alternate covers for the first two issues of the series.