The ongoing dynamic in the James Bond franchise is whether it should be a grim tale of a spy who gets his hands dirty or a bombastic adventure about a man who loves his jet-setting job. Do you prefer your Bond choking guys in bathrooms or driving submarine cars? Do you prefer your martini shaken or poured on a wound? “James Bond: The Body” explores that very dynamic from the point of view of the doctor who needs to stitch 007 up between ops.
Written By Ales Kot
Illustrated by Luca Casalanguida
Colors by Valentina Pinto
Lettered by Thomas Napolitano
As Bond undergoes a post-mission medical examination, he relays the story of his previous mission to the examiner. Each cut, bruise, and broken bone connected to a specific event of the mission. A connection is made between two people with different purposes: one to save lives, the other to take them. From writer Ales Kot (Secret Avengers, Zero) comes a James Bond story that explores the secret agent in ways that we have yet to experience!
I am an unrepentant Bond fan, and I lean towards the sillier side of things, but I do love me a good Daniel Craig flick. Thankfully Ales Kot and Luca Casalanguida are responding to themes from the films, but this Bond is totally their own. The story is a good reminder of what a cipher Bond is. Like any good superhero, he can be bent and twisted to fit the story you want to tell, and if you have a good story, he’ll rise to the occasion.
As it stands, the framing narrative is the most interesting part of ‘The Body.’ The title refers to the body of Bond himself, which has been broken and battered while on a desperate assignment to stop an assassination. Dr. Vird is amiable; he has no problem making James laugh as he administers first aid. He knows better than to ask a super-spy questions, but like the reader, Vird is a fan of the adventures of 007, and he just can’t help himself.
So Bond’s body becomes the canvas, his injuries the words, and each medical procedure takes us through the adventure. His broken ribs and stab wounds guide us through the op, and his x-rays take us from panel to panel.
I love this idea, but I felt that there was more that could have been done with it. For better or worse, Kot and Casalanguida don’t try anything fancy with their comic. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t work, but panel layouts are fairy typical, despite the chronology of the story being all over the place. We’re looking at mostly four and six panel spreads, and time jumps usually coincide with page turns.
Still, there’s a lot of good in those simple stylistic choices. Some of the transitions are subtle, but effective, especially when we jump from an injured Bond in the present to the cleaned up James on his mission. The iconic faces aren’t detailed enough to look like real people, but that makes them look more like comic book characters. This isn’t Craig-Bond or Connery-Bond or Barry Nelson-Bond. This is just James Bond as himself. He’s got a square jaw, dark hair, and dark shadows over his eyes. He looks less like a Hollywood actor and more like a golden age superhero. It’s a look that works extremely well for Bond.
Such simple artwork may not work as well without a good colorist but fortunately, Valentina Pinto delivers. The issue is full of bright lights and deep shadows. Most importantly, the story would not work at all if it couldn’t show you an effective bruise, and Pinto blends all the beautiful colors in each contusion. I found myself grossed out on the one hand, but strangely awed on the other. That’s a good line for the issue to walk. The cover show’s a half-skinnless James. Some gross beauty is in order.
I don’t want to give away the ending, but Kot has an opinion on whether Bond races speedboats or kills without remorse, and it’s not exactly what you think. People familiar with Kot’s work will know how he feels about spies, violence, and the military, but his affection for the character is clear. He doesn’t want to deconstruct Bond too badly because he loves Bond. At the same time, anyone who flinched uncomfortably when he got aggressive with that woman in Skyfall knows that it can be hard to enjoy Bond sometimes.Continued below
Kot is aware of that, and his final stance is a good one. I may even go so far to say the right one. How can we keep celebrating (and we do, remember when he “saved” the queen at the 2012 London Olympics?) a womanizing murderous alcoholic? The answer lies with affable Dr. Vird and his affection for the strangely charismatic secret agent.
Final Verdict: 8.8 – Bond is seeing a resurgence in comics, and no writer gets 007 better than Ales Kot.