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The Classic Bond Goodness of Hammerhead

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The character of James Bond has proven to be one of the most versatile characters of all time, succeeding in just about every medium you can think of. Obviously the character has done very well in film, and he’s has a very lengthy tenure in literature. Video games have also had a tremendous amount of success with Bond, although primarily through the GoldenEye game for the Nintendo 64. Hell, there’s even been a series of popular radio dramas featuring Bond. But there’s one medium that I’m surprised to see hasn’t fully embraced Bond. Comics. There have been a couple series sprinkled throughout the decades, but typically they’ve just been straight adaptations. Sadly nothing too crazy. I was hopeful when I learned that Marvel adapted some of the Bond stories in the 70s that they may have done something insane with the property, like they did with their Godzilla, 2001, and Star Wars adaptations. But, sadly, that’s not the case. However, in the last couple of years this strange aberration seems to be coming to an end. Because recently the comics company Dynamite, who largely specializes in publishing stories about characters from the radio drama or newspaper strip days of comics, have been putting out a very interesting string of Bond stories. They’ve all been original stories, told by some of England’s most prominent comics writers. I’ve enjoyed the entire run, but there was one story, a more or less standalone miniseries to the larger ongoing Bond series, that has really stood out to me, and that I want to bring to your attention today.

Hammerhead is an incredibly enjoyable story that takes the classic, tried and true Bond formula and uses it to create a thrilling Bond adventure. The story begins with Bond parachuting down into a massive apartment complex in Venezuela, hot on the trail of a notorious hacker known as Saxon. Bond is able to confirm that Saxon is working with a mysterious individual named Kraken, but is unable to get much information out of Saxon before an explosive-filled collar around Saxon’s neck detonates. Bond is then forced to return to London, and be reamed by M, who is not pleased that he let their only lead die. It turns out that Kraken and Saxon have been trying to harass a British weapons manufacturing company known as Hunt, which is a big deal because Hunt is set to provide England with its newest nuclear deterrent, after decommissioning the previous Trident program. Protecting Hunt from Kraken is obviously a major priority, but because Bond botched this last assignment M decides to punish him by ordering Bond to babysit Lord Bernard Hunt and his daughter Victoria at an international arms conference in Dubai. So, stifling his pride, Bond heads to Dubai and meets with Victoria, the beautiful heiress to the Hunt fortune. Victoria flirts with Bond, and shows him all of Hunt’s latest innovations, including a high-powered rail-gun that they’re calling Hammerhead. She explains that Hammerhead is their proposal for England’s new nuclear deterrent, and promises that it will change the world, and give power back to England. However, it’s clear that not everyone is pleased with this course of action, because a squad of assassins arrive in Dubai, and manage to kill Lorn Bernard before attacking Bond and Victoria. But Bond is able to kill the assassins, while getting a small bit of information from them, before feeding them to a shark.

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Bond is able to use facial recognition on one of the assassins, and links them to a mercenary group in Yemen. Victoria offers to fly Bond to find the assassins, and they of course sleep together along the way. But as they’re flying to Yemen, chaos is spreading. Because a group of terrorists, liked with Kraken, attack a British helicopter carrying nuclear warheads, and steals them. When Bond and Victoria land in Yemen she learns of the theft, and has to immediately head to her family’s base in Northern England. Bond meanwhile begins hunting down the mercenaries, and their leader, Karim Malfakhar. Which is made simple when Karim’s organization are able to hack into Bond’s car, and cause it to try and kill him. Bond is then captured by Karim’s men, when they learn that something is afoot. Karim did not send those assassins, and had been working with Kraken as a smuggler, until he found that what they wanted him to smuggle was atomic weapons. He wanted no part in that, and wants to help Bond expose Kraken, especially when he realizes that he and his men will be framed for a terrorist attack using the nuclear weapons.

Bond, Karim, and Karim’s men then track down the ship that they were supposed to deliver the atomic bomb to. And when they get there they find something surprising. A Hammerhead weapon, with the nuclear payload loaded. They’re able to stop the men on the ship from launching the bomb, and Bond at once realizes who Kraken is. Victoria. Which is made complicated when we learn that M, Moneypenny, and a Defense Minister are currently visiting Victoria’s island headquarters. Bond is able to get word to Moneypenny that Victoria isn’t on the level, but when she and M attempt to flee they are captured by Victoria’s men are taken hostage. So it’s all up to Bond. Luckily he has a plan. Bond has Karim’s men fly him to a British submarine nearby Victoria’s island. And not just any submarine, the one that he worked on when he was a member of the British Navy. The sailors aboard trust Bond, and they help him head to Victoria’s island. Unfortunately, when they get close Victoria realizes what’s happening, and since Hunt has outfitted the Navy she is able to gain control of the sub, and fire a nuclear missile towards London. Her plan is to destroy London, forcing the British to believe that a new nuclear arms-race is happening, causing England and all of its allies to invest in the Hammerhead technology, giving her a monopoly on the “protection” of the Earth. Unless Bond can stop her. He’s able to get off the submarine before anything too terrible happens, and gets onto Victoria’s island, where he immediately gains control of their Hammerhead. He uses the device to shoot down the nuclear bomb before it reaches London, and then uses the device to destroy the island. Victoria is killed in the blast, and Bond is able to race through the compound and rescue M and Moneypenny before it sinks. The trio then return to London with the knowledge that they’ve saved Britain once again.

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I really love this mini-series. Like I said earlier, the whole Dynamite Bond series has been a blast so far, and it’s been wonderful to see them adapt the Bond formula to comics. Hell, they’ve even found ways to put in pre-title sequences and gun-barrels. All while telling some good, old-fashioned Bond stories. I have really loved the Daniel Craig era of the Bond films, and it’s been nice to see the series try something new, and take things in a more character-driven direction. And yet, there’s a part of me that still longs for the good-old-days of the Bond formula. Calling things formulaic is often an insult, implying that there’s little to no creativity involved, but sometimes those formulas are in place because they work. The classic Bond formula as crafted in Dr. No and perfected in Goldfinger have lead to fifty years of fun and exciting James Bond stories. So while it’s nice to see the franchise trying new things, it’s also really great to occasionally hop back into the comfort zone, and enjoy some old-school Bond action. And that’s what we get from this comic. Hammerhead is a hell of a story, taking the old Bond formula, adding in some contemporary aspects, and crafting a fun and exciting story. It’s a shame that we don’t have a consistent Bond novel series at the moment, but at least Dynamite is still here, scratching that itch.

 

Hammerhead was written by Andy Diggle, penciled by Luca Casalanguida, lettered by Simon Bowland, colored by Chris Blythe, and distributed by Dynamite Entertainment, 2016.

 

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