James Bond 007 and all the images you see in this recap are owned by Dynamite Entertainment and Ian Fleming Publications
We’re back with even more of the John Lee Adventures with special appearances by James Bond! Yes, the chemistry between Bond and Lee has been holding this series up through its somewhat rocky narrative, but with two more issues to look at, perhaps we’ll finally understand what the bad guys are up to and why our heroes should care! After all, it took A View to a Kill like an hour and a half to get to the part of the movie that ACTUALLY matters, so the least we can do is cut the comic book a bit of slack on its pacing. Do they finally kick things into high gear or at least give us a solid glimpse as to where this series will be going? Let’s find out!!
Issue 5 (March 2019)
The issue begins with Moneypenny bringing the case with the golden dragon back to MI6 headquarters where she explains that this is a SPECIAL golden dragon with a long history to it. I checked, and The Golden Dragon of Goreyeo doesn’t seem to be a real thing, but in any case, the thing must be worth a lot of money which is why ORU was son intent on getting it. Good thing they didn’t get it and it’s now in Britain’s hands along with the Koh-i-Noor Diamond and other priceless artifacts from other cultures! Unfortunately (or I guess fortunately depending on your point of view), the MI6 scientists open the case to find nothing more than a stack of bricks and shattered dreams.
Setting aside the fact that Moneypenny never bothered to CHECK the suitcase (or noticed that there were at least four objects clanging around in there instead of just the one dragon), it looks like John pulled a fast one on MI6 during their extrication from Australia which involved a foot chase with the Australian SIS that left John scattered to the wind, James in an Australian jailhouse, and Moneypenny with a bag of rocks. M’s theory that it’s all a big set up from Korean Intelligence proves to be incorrect however as John gets a call from the director (The guy we saw in issue 3) looking more haggard than Captain Howard and J Jonah Jameson combined trying to figure out why the heck one of his agents is not reporting in and is carrying around a hundred million dollar artifact. His goal, as stated last time but put into practice here, is to save the female ORU agent known as Agent K (no, not Tommy Lee Jones despite how amazing of a twist THAT would be) and the best friend of John Lee. He’s convinced that she can be saved because despite being brainwashed like all the other ORU agents we’ve seen so far (a plot point that STILL frustrates me but I won’t beat that drum again just yet) she hasn’t tried to kill Lee yet; proving that she’s in there somewhere and can be saved. I mean I GUESS that’s true if we ignore the end of the last issues where she put a gun right in his face, but his boss isn’t all that impressed with the theory and definitely lets Lee know it.
Our main man Lee however cannot be dissuaded from his masterstroke of a plan which is to… give Oru the dragon and hope they let Agent K go. Not exactly a stratagem worthy of Hannibal (that’s the Carthaginian dude; not the guy who played Le Chiffre) but when you have a hat as awesome as he does I guess it hardly matters. Okay, that’s not the WHOLE plan but it’s frankly the only part that gets an explanation. John JUST SO HAPPENS to know where Agent K is which JUST SO HAPPENS to be with some sort of ORU higher up who looks like an MIB agent and uses her cell phone to electroshock Agent K for screwing up in her mission. This at least gives us the idea that K is a less than willing participant in all this (and that ORU are a bunch of jerks) which gives us a bit of hope that MAYBE John is onto something here, and when he bursts through the freaking sunroof and starts karate kicking she joins with him just like it’s old times. They kill the MIB looking lady, kill a few bad guys, and John explains the plan of trading the very valuable dragon for her freedom, and it looks like things are gonna go that way… until Agent K kicks him in the face and just steals the dragon before jumping out the window onto a waiting helicopter.
Agent K returns to Oru headquarters with the dragon in hand and presents it to ORU Prime; the leader of the organization. And the leader turns out to be… Auric Goldfinger! You know; the guy who tried to irradiate all the gold in Fort Knox because I guess that was easier than just buying more gold elsewhere and letting the market do its thing. In hindsight, I really should have seen this coming. What’s the movie that Oddjob showed up in? Why it’s Goldfinger, so of COURSE a story about the new Oddjob would involve the guy in some way. Then again, it seems that this is the ORIGINAL Goldfinger and not some protégé like John Lee is supposed to be, so who did the original Oddjob work for!? Now that I think about it, they STILL haven’t really gotten into the fact that John is in fact the new Oddjob. MI6 thinks he is, but John’s never said as much in any of the interactions Bond has had with him, so maybe they’re saving that for later. I guess this issue is fine but it’s more setup than anything else that’s banking on its TWIST ENDING to keep us hooked for the next issue. It’s a bit disappointing that the John Lee centered issue kinda ends up overshadowing him, but I definitely want to see where things go from here!
Issue 6 (April 2019)
The issue begins with Bond still in jail after the altercation in Australia. Now obviously he’s not talking to the Australian SIS, but by the convenient power of flashbacks, we learn that Bond and his best buddy John Lee were accosted by two agents who I guess were watching them from the sidelines and were now demanding the briefcase with the priceless treasure inside. James and Lee disagreed with this proposal and so Bond nearly shoots one’s eye out and in the made race James catches a suitcase that Lee tossed to him and it turns out that was the fake briefcase that he was able to get to Moneypenny who raced off in a car while he was put under arrest. Said arrest, by the way, is about to end because Bond is a secret agent and I can only assume that the authorities can’t actually CHARGE them with anything; even for shooting a guy in the head! I mean… he DID live, but still!
When he gets back to MI6 he learns of what John Lee has done, and worse yet the Korean government has asked MI6 to help them “fix” this problem, and by “fix” they mean put a bullet in the problem’s head. James seems somewhat conflicted by this, at least for a brief second, but I guess this is why they pay him the big double-O bucks and so he gets right to work tracking him down which involves… pulling out his cell phone and calling him. Did no one else think to do that, or did he only share it with Bond and he’s under strict bro-code protocol to not share it? In any case they have a cheeky little conversation with sinister undertones, and the call is traced to Oxford; right smack dab in the middle of MI6’s territory which must be at least a BIT embarrassing for them, but at least they have Bond on hand to clean up their messes! James follows the signal and goes to some sort of creepy dungeon in the bottom of the school (I assume this is standard issue for any building in England; it has to be where the GameStops destroy all those unsold OG Xbox One consoles and limited edition Funko Pops) and finds a bunch of creepy scientist doing some very unhealthy things to a guy on a table. You know, the first time I read this it just kinda flew past me, but now that I’m thinking about it this seems like quite a strange development! Secret medical experiments in what looks like Frankenstein’s backup lab and James Bond shows up to shoot a bunch of gun-toting evil doctors in the head? This is skating right up to the point of being TOO silly but is still firmly in FUN-ville; at least for the time being. John Lee turns up as soon as Bond is done with the scientists to explain that he intentionally led Bond here as it’s an ORU conversion center where they attach those things to the back of their cronies’ neck, and this poor kid was about to become their newest agent. Not sure why it required four doctors and a secret underground base to do it, but I guess it’s not a Bond story if the villains aren’t at least a LITTLE bit theatrical. Speaking of theatrics, Bond has Lee right in his sights… but decides not to go through with it yet and doesn’t even inform MI6 that he’s found him. Perhaps he’s putting some genuine trust in the guy, or maybe he’s PRETENDING to do so in order to uncover whatever else Lee might have planned! Oh, you coy little bastard!
The two of them manage to fight their way out of the building and kill a bunch of henchmen along the way (presumably ones under the same mind control device that all the other ones appear to be under, but let’s not spoil the fun of a good gunfight), and John Lee manages to escape by chucking a freaking grenade at Bond and hoping he can get away from it before it goes off! Thankfully he does and the police show up to save the kid while Bond and Moneypenny plan their next move. It turns out that Bond had discreetly placed one of those SUPER tracker things on John which not only lets them listen in on his conversations but also uses super technology to create a real-time 3D rendering of his environment and everyone within it. Not the first time we’ve seen this technology as it was how MI6 initially deduced John to be the new Oddjob, but still seems a bit hand-wavy even for a franchise that has ski pole guns and an iceberg boat. The point here is so that Bond and Moneypenny can see what happens next which is John finding and confronting Goldfinger in his attempt to save Agent K. The version of Goldfinger in here is certainly different than in the movie as that guy was certainly an egomaniac, but he was also pretty prudent about his love of gold. Sure, he dipped ONE person in gold, but other than that he didn’t seem like he was OBSESSED with the stuff! If he was, he certainly wouldn’t have attempted to irradiate such a large supply of it! As much as Goldfinger liked gold he was ultimately about making money, while the guy in THIS book willingly destroys a priceless statue so that he can have a less valuable hunk of gold. It’s a new interpretation of the character to be sure and we’ll have to see how it plays out going forward.
Goldfinger proves to be a much more prudent villainous mastermind than Lee had given him credit for, and has Agent K kick him in the face when he’s not looking. Seriously dude, how did you not see that coming!? Aren’t you a spy who should be aware of your surroundings!? And so the issue ends with John Lee seemingly failed in his mission and at the mercy of the dastardly Goldfinger. Will they turn him to the dark side just like Agent K, and will Bond be forced to kill him the next time they meet!? I guess we’ll have to find out next time!
I’m a bit disappointed that it seems to be headed towards a Goldfinger remake of some kind as I can only assume John Lee is going to start working for Goldfinger as Oddjob did in the original film, but writing here on the characters is really strong that I’m still very engaged with it; particularly the writing on Bond where they’re finding the right balance between the blunt murder that more recent writers have started to seize on and someone who… well isn’t just a blunt murderer. The problem I have with some of these later interpretations of the character (particularly the Spectre interpretation of Bond and Warren Ellis’s earlier books at Dynamite) is that I don’t see going to one extreme of the Bond spectrum as being particularly clever. Just because you don’t want to do the Roger Moore suave and silly version doesn’t mean he has to be boringly grizzled and popping people’s heads off at every opportunity. He’s actually a bit closer to the Goldeneye version of the character that can certainly be serious when called upon but is still a genuine human being; a representative of perhaps the more odious romanticism of the era in which he came from but also a guy with charm, humor, compassion, and most certainly regrets. As much as I like John Lee who’s got charm for days, I worry that he’s being sidelined now that Goldfinger has entered the picture, and frankly, I’m just not FEELING the need for him to save Agent K. I still don’t know Agent K, so I can’t really get invested in just how much he wants to save her; at least not as much as him wanting to be best buddies with Bond. Wherever they do plan on taking this though, they’ve done a great job of hooking me in and I can’t wait to see what happens next!