Forgive me for being late to the party on this title. I’m a huge James Bond fan, having read every one of the original books by Ian Fleming, many of the subsequent books by various authors, and of course I’ve watched all the movies. So, I’m not sure how I had missed the fact that Dynamite was producing James Bond books. Judging by the quality of James Bond Origins #6, I’ve surely been missing out.
James Bond Origins features a series of stories in Bond’s early career, tracing his formative years before he would become a double ‘O’ in MI-6. Unlike the movies, who have had to age James Bond into contemporary society, Dynamite have been able to keep Bond in his natural element and this origin story is set in World War II. Although Bond will fully come into his own during The Cold War, Fleming drew upon his own experiences to write a character who was shaped in the crucible of World War II. Writer Jeff Parker (Aquaman, Thunderbolts) has set this particular tale, named ‘Izabel’, in World War II Portugal.
Much like the city of Casablanca, immortalized in the movie of the same name, Portugal during World War II was technically a neutral country but the conflict between the NAZI’s and the allied resistance to them simmered underneath the surface of the country at all times. Into this volatile situation steps Bond, who is on a mission to recover a German scientist and the plans he is carrying. This scientist has managed to elude the Gestapo through France and Spain before making his way into Portugal. Here however, they have finally caught up to him and they are determined to prevent his escape. A well-meaning delivery woman named Izabel, for whom the issue is named, meets the scientist and helps him to elude capture while shepherding him to a temporary safe haven. Izabel also encounters Bond wandering the streets of Lisbon. It was humorous to see Bond flustered when his innocent comments are playfully rebuffed by Izabel as possible sexual advances. This is not the supremely confident James Bond of the sixties and it is endearing. Bond eventually makes an ally of Izabel and she leads him to the scientist. When the two meet, Bond learns the nature of the plans the scientist is attempting to smuggle out of the country. However, as Bond attempts to get the scientist out of the country he is forced to make a choice regarding Izabel. Foreshadowing one of his fatal flaws in fiction and film, Bond will find his life complicated by the ladies who have the misfortune to cross his path and this tale is no exception.
This is an incredibly well done book from start to finish. The splash page at the beginning of the book is drawn up to look like a confidential cipher with orders for Bond. The imperative in bold letters at the bottom of the page, ‘For Your Eyes Only’, is a nice touch that I especially appreciated. Parker has written a James Bond tale that could easily dovetail into the nebulously defined time before Ian Fleming’s Casino Royale. I don’t think I can give much higher praise than that as I tend to be something of a protectionist fanboy over Bond in literature. The art by Bob Q (The Lone Ranger) lives up to the story, presenting itself as a modern interpretation of golden age comics featuring NAZI’s and spies. The character design is timeless and well done but Q has added modern techniques that provide depth and dynamism to the drama unfolding on page. My only critique of the artwork is that it is sometimes simplistic in panels that are transitory and the difference can be very noticeable. Also, there isn’t a surfeit of action in the book and so I found it difficult to give a higher grade to artwork that could be relatively staid at times. All told, this is an excellent book and one I recommend heartily.
Writing – 4.5 of 5 Stars
Art – 4 of 5 Stars
Writer – Jeff Parker
Art – Bob Q
Color – Jordan Boyd
Letters – Simon Bowland