One of my favorite comics of the last ten years is Queen & Country, Rucka’s series about British secret agent Tara Chase. A few years ago, the com...moreOne of my favorite comics of the last ten years is Queen & Country, Rucka’s series about British secret agent Tara Chase. A few years ago, the comics series ended, but he continued Queen & Country as a series of prose novels. Like the comic, they’re gritty, violent, and very firmly based in the real world. They’re not James-Bond-with-Boobs stories full of larger-than-life escapades where the hero escapes unscathed after tossing off a few quips. They’re intense, down-to-earth, and nobody ever truly seems safe. Not even Tara Chase.
As usual with Rucka’s books, I found myself unable to put it down (which, considering I was reading it on my lunches and breaks at work, made for frustrating reading). At first, it seemed like a typical spy-mission-gone-wrong story—Tara is sent to Iran to help a Very Important Person defect, even though the whole thing smells like a trap to all concerned—but just when things reached their lowest point, Rucka springs a twist that turns the story completely on its head. Great stuff.
In a lot of ways, this feels like the final Tara Chase story, at least in the series' current format. I know Rucka has talked about bringing her back to comics, but the longer we go without a new issue, the less likely that seems. And honestly, if this is the last time we see Tara, I’ve got closure. (less)
This book helps preserve the legacy of writer Archie Goodwin and artist Al Williamson, collecting their first several years on Secret Agent Corrigan (...moreThis book helps preserve the legacy of writer Archie Goodwin and artist Al Williamson, collecting their first several years on Secret Agent Corrigan (originally Secret Agent X-9). Together, Goodwin and Williamson take FBI agent Phil Corrigan through a number of fast-paced adventures, bringing the classic strip (created in 1933 by equally legendary Dashiell Hammett and Alex Raymond) firmly into the late 60s.
Williamson's classic style, influenced in equal parts by classic illustrators like Alex Raymond and classic cinema, keeps the visuals interesting and exciting. His use of light and shadows, as well as his ability to keep his camera moving, is showcased well by the comic strip format, where he can't rely on clever layouts across the page. (Not that Williamson was ever an artist to rely on flashy gimmicks.)
Together, he and Goodwin take Corrigan through a wide variety of adventures in a wide variety of settings. The action comes fast and furious, and there isn't a clunker in the bunch.
Highly recommended for lovers of fun stories and fine art.(less)
First and foremost, this is a fun spy novel. The action is fast-paced, and the suspense kept me on the edge of my seat. The villain was colorful and e...moreFirst and foremost, this is a fun spy novel. The action is fast-paced, and the suspense kept me on the edge of my seat. The villain was colorful and evil, and his wicked scheme was creative and unpredictable.
Deaver's writing had a few distracting quirks that occasionally drew me out of the story. Too often, he would cut away from Bond making a phone call to persons unknown. The next chapter, we'd find Bond in some tight spot or another, only to see him get out because he'd already prepared for it by making the phone call in the previous chapter. The first one or two times this happened, it seemed clever. By the fourth or fifth time, it got a bit old.
So, overall, a fun novel and a diverting read. But is it a good James Bond novel?
The answer to that question depends upon what you're looking for in a James Bond novel. This book definitely doesn't read like an Ian Fleming book. Which is fine; Ian Fleming has been dead for decades. In the intervening years, Bond has gone from the star of Fleming's novel to... something else. With novels by other authors, and movies by various production teams and starring various actors, it's now impossible to say what the definitive James Bond truly is.
Whether the world needs new James Bond novels or not is debatable. However, if new James Bond stories are to be published, the character needs to be kept up to date. There's no point in writing historical James Bond adventures; the originals were contemporary when they were written, and it wouldn't be in keeping with that spirit if that were to be changed. Similarly, it doesn't make sense to just write pastiches of the Fleming books; readers might as well just read the originals.
In order to keep the character up to date, either the character's age needs to be ignored (one option) or the series needs to be restarted (another option, one taken here). And Deaver does a fine job of updating the character, keeping much of Bond's character intact while making him palatable to modern audiences. The greatest change is in Bond's treatment of women. It would simply not be possible to have a character who is ostensibly in his 30s today treating women as if he grew up in the 50s. Deaver has applied some thought to Bond's relationships; he respects women, but knows that his career makes long-term relationships problematic.
Otherwise, this Bond felt like a new version of a character I've been reading most of my life. And it's a version I wouldn't mind meeting up with again.(less)
Brian Bendis, Kelly Sue DeConnick, and Lan Medina create an excellent "adaptation" of "Richard Castle's" first novel. While not as twisty and meaty as...moreBrian Bendis, Kelly Sue DeConnick, and Lan Medina create an excellent "adaptation" of "Richard Castle's" first novel. While not as twisty and meaty as Castle's more recent Nikki Heat prose novels, it's still an effective thriller, full of action and suspense. The art, by Medina, is equally effective in the quiet, dialogue scenes as in the moments of action. The script perfectly captures Castle's unique voice, and adapts the novel so smoothly it's impossible to tell if any cuts were made. (I say this, not having read the original.)
While American comics tend to rely on superhero stories, it's nice to see a different genre coming from Marvel's House of Ideas. (Even if it's really someone else's idea.) While the story itself is a lot of fun, it's also neat to see the "making of" features in the back of the book, as well as a complete list of Castle's works. Here's hoping we'll see more of them either coming back in print, or adapted into graphic novels like this one.(less)