Guest Writer: Nick Monitto
This article was possible due to the gift of a review copy, QWERTY, and rolling natural 20s.
Although my nerdiness spanned many areas, one where I never got in too deeply was with comic books. Growing up in the 1980’s, the only ones I read were “GI Joe” and “Transformers”, things which I was already a fan of from their television shows and toy lines. Even now, most of the ones I follow are tied to tabletop games or “Star Wars”/”Star Trek”, things where I already have an established fanhood.
In that vein, I was intrigued a few years ago when I saw that Dynamite Comics was debuting a line around James Bond. I have read a few previews so far, but not yet read the full stories. Now that they have branched off into side characters (a one-shot “Moneypenny” comic came out not long ago), I figured this was a good way to sample the work. So I took this opportunity to join one of Bond’s longtime friends, the American known as Felix Leiter.
“Felix Leiter” is a six-issue self-contained series set within Dynamite’s “James Bond” universe. At this point, Leiter is a former CIA operative, retired and working as a private investigator in Key West, Florida. He has been ‘asked’ for a favor by his former employers- travel to Japan and identify Alena Davoff, a Russian agent with whom he has a significant past.
The technology we see in this story is restrained compared to Bond standards. With Leiter as a ‘free agent’, there is no “Q Branch” to provide exotic gadgets. The only advanced gear he has is some body prosthetics that, per a flashback, were given to him by Bond. Even Leiter’s partner in Japanese intelligence, who is described as a “James Bond” type himself, is more into stealth and hand-to-hand combat than using special weaponry.
Trying to avoid too many spoilers, I can say that the baseline of the story is modern day and pretty realistic in construction. A terrorist attack, reminiscent of the 1995 subway plot, is traced back to a militant cult looking to manipulate Asian nation politics. The angles and turns of the story have North Korea or Russia seemingly involved in an urge to war, until it reaches a final twist to plant deeply into classic Bond lore. The method of the attack itself is the only part I would put into the area of ‘fantasy’; at least, I hope such a means is not now viable!
Overall, I found this to be an intriguing story. It slowed down some for me in the final act; with tighter editing it could have been a tenser story done in five issues rather than six. The timeline jumps were a little distracting until I got used to them. The art was quite well done, mostly a soft style, though some had the strength of photographs. The book has no references about content except for a note on the back, “Rated: Teen +”. I do agree; on a motion picture scale, I would put it at PG-13. There is some almost-nudity and fighting violence, on a par with what you see in a Bond movie.
In addition to the story, this collection also includes three ‘bonus features’. First is a seven-page covers gallery, showing untitled cover art for the individual issues of this series. I really like when compilations provide these, especially when the alternates are included. Comic cover art has gotten fantastic nowadays, and a gallery is something that encourages me to buy a collection like this. Next is a three-page interview with writer James Robinson. The last one is particularly interesting: in screenplay format, it is Robinson’s write-up for issue #1. It contains the descriptions for each page’s art (with smaller reprints of certain panels) and activity, as well as all of the dialogue and captions. It also includes some suggestion notes for the artist and colorist to use. I found it a fascinating look ‘behind the scenes’ of comic book creation.
Monitto… Nick Monitto is a wide-ranging geek who came of age in the 1970’s and 80’s. He does not have a license to kill but does have ones to pilot a monorail or a TARDIS…