James Bond Origin #1
Jeff Parker (Writer), Bob Q (Artist and Colourist), Simon Bowland (Letterer)
5 September, 2018
Clydebank, Scotland, World War II: Lt. Commander Ronald Weldon of the British Royal Navy is escorting his pupils to safety as bombs rain over the town. Clydebank makes for an attractive target, what with its ammunition factories and shipyards.
Fortunately for the factories, the German bombers usually miss their targets. Unfortunately for the residents, the German bombs usually strike them instead. Thus, Lt. Cmdr. Weldon has to find a safe place for his students to hide. As he races through the rubble, his pupils in tow, he is informed that one of his students who was not on this trip has been spotted in town. This student will one day be known to us as Bond. James Bond.
The bombers are only part of the danger that Bond faces. A few days ago, he was meeting with Professor Hans Keller, who went to university with Bond’s mother, Monique Delacroix. Keller had pictures he thought Bond would like to see of his late mother. But their reminisces were interrupted by the arrival of the mysterious Werner, an old friend of the professor’s who brought with him a deadly gift, one that may change the course of the war in Germany’s favour. Can Bond find out the truth and help his fellow students survive the attack?
James Bond is undoubtedly one of the world’s most famous characters. Ian Fleming’s spy hero has left an indelible impression on us all, and it is no surprise that even after Fleming’s death, so many stories have proliferated about how Bond became the enigmatic 007. One begins to wonder if there are too many such stories.
In this origin story, we see a 17-year-old Bond, wilful and kind, as he makes his first forays into a dark and dangerous world. The Bond of this book could easily have been any other bright young man. He is a good student and takes initiative, but he isn’t good at following orders. Also, he has yet to achieve that seductive spark that defines Bond.
This is probably why I struggled to enjoy this book. It is a good read, but it fails to leave any impression. The Bond we meet here is so extremely generic that, had it not been for his name, I would have quite forgotten that I was reading about the origins of literature’s infamous super-spy.
The decision to tell the story from Lt. Cmdr. Weldon’s point of view adds to this. We don’t get any insight into Bond’s mind, truly a fascinating study that the Daniel Craig films touched on, but never fully explored. What is going through this teenager’s head? We understand that he wants to learn more about his late parents, and clearly he misses them, but what does he feel? The rest of his fellow students likely come from happy homes, but he is an orphan. Does he feel like an outsider? Is that why he struggles to take orders? Is this the motivation for him trying to do more than is required of him with regards to extracurricular activities?
I don’t expect all these to be answered in the first issue, but this book gives no inkling that it wants to explore any of these aspects of Bond’s personality in the series. After all, we know Bond can fight, and think fast, and save the damsel in distress, we don’t need more of that in comic form. Including all this made it feel like we were reading a comic book about Alex Rider, not James Bond. Give us something different!
There are also some inconsistencies I noticed, which I assume will be rectified in coming issues. Professor Keller remarks that Bond is tall like his mother, but for the majority of the book, Bond is shorter than everyone else.
The art is functional, at best. The Bond of this story looks like nobody we have seen on the big screen, which is understandable, but his features are uninspiring. I generally had to distinguish him by his extremely black hair. By the way, is the black hair a dig at Daniel Craig?
Where the art shines is in the landscapes. The panels of Clydebank burning are as beautiful as they are horrifying. Bond’s jaunt through a luscious green farm is so verdant, one can practically smell the grass. I couldn’t help but wish some of that detail had gone into the characters’ faces.
I was excited for this issue, but found it underwhelming. Things happen in it, but they are all such obvious setups for future issues that they hold no weight on their own. The art is good, but not great, which is unfortunate, considering the James Bond films are known for their grandeur. I understand that every character has to start somewhere, and this book is only the first issue but, as origin stories go, I feel like I would be better off not knowing.