Review – James Bond: Felix Leiter #1 (Dynamite)

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Publisher: Dynamite
Writer: James Robinson
Artist: Aaron Campbell
Release Date: 11th January, 2017

It always strikes me as odd that spin-offs starring supporting characters of a main series are considered viable options – I mean, let’s have a look shall we? Sure, every so often you get your Frasiers, or your Better Call Sauls, but just as often you get your Joeys, and your Joanie Loves Chachis. Is it really worth it just to get a handful of decent stories out of the mire? Dynamite – now proud owners of the rights to make Bondjames Bond comics – clearly think Bond’s erstwhile American not-sidekick is worth a shot…

Telling the story of (mild spoilers) now-mildly dismembered American agent Felix Leiter as he slouches grouchily around Tokyo, displaying a penchant for Japanese whisky, ostensibly on what he describes as a ‘favour’. Old acquaintances, both familiar and not, complicate matters rather quickly.

At face value, the artwork seems amicably gauche – all scratchy line work and nicely dynamic staging set it apart from the Warren Ellis-written main series in tone and texture. But about half-way through the issue, there’s a panel that can only be described as something of an affront: one of the worst examples of ‘just get a photo and put a photoshop filter on it’ I’ve seen since those godawful 24 comics. Sure, it’s a single panel, a transitional scene with no character figures present, but it made me go back and reassess every single panel that preceded it. The conclusion? There’s a weird inconsistency to the art. One page, you’ll have a gorgeously detailed neon cityscape. The next, a hazily-detailed teutonic nightmare. The only consistencies are Campbell’s figure-work, and Aiala’s decent job on the colours – properly evoking the murky world of espionage that Leiter lurks within.

Robinson’s narrative, however, does go some way to offsetting the… let’s call them curiosities of the artwork, though even then, there’s a strangely sterile quality to everything, as if it was a bit of a struggle to breathe the soul of a primary protagonist into a up-to-this-point strictly supporting character. The best I can conjure is that it’s a very slow burn of a story, and whilst the captioned narration from Leiter has a sturdy grit about it, it can’t really make up for very little intrigue actually happening in the story proper as yet. I’d love to see it come to life in the coming issues, however – there’s potential simmering just under the surface, and lesser writers than Robinson have pulled that sort of coup before.

But the question that does arise at the end of it all is ‘who is this for?’. I know a fair number of fairly (okay, you got me, it’s four) hardcore James Bond fans, and not a one of them fancied the idea of a Felix Leiter-led mini-series. That said, at least the dialogue and narration has momentary glimpses of the smooth, handsomely crafted main series, but as whole, I’m really struggling to breathe life into a recommendation for this book. It’s entirely possible that I know the foir oddballs of James Bond fandom, and that you’ll at least find this interesting as and when the fuse reaches the explosives, but for the rest of us, there’re better purchases this week.

Rating: 2/5.

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RSavThe Writer of this piece was: Ross Sweeney
Ross tweets from @Rostopher24

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