Serpent's Tooth Review

Serpent's Tooth is a James Bond graphic novel by Doug Moench with art by Paul Gulacy. It was first published by Dark Horse Comics and appeared in three parts from 1992 to 1993. The story begins with some alarming developments that happened several years previously. A group of nuclear scientists were kidnapped from Britain and not long after that a British nuclear submarine was attacked by a mysterious force beneath the Arctic ice and had six nuclear warheads stolen. The British Secret Service assigned 009 to investigate the case but 009 has now vanished. He was believed to have been in Peru looking into a company known as Paradiso Industries and owned by a shadowy reptilian character named Indigo. 007 is given the task of investigating the disappearance of 009 and the theft of the nuclear missiles and his mission takes him to South America where he meets his contact (and inevitable love interest) Sunny Vasquez and discovers that the cold-blooded Indigo is plotting all sorts of outrageous mischief that could have terrible consequences for life as we know it...

This is a colourful and entertaining graphic novel that owes quite a lot to the fantastical late seventies Roger Moore era of James Bond when the likes Lewis Gilbert and Ken Adam were heavily involved in the films. The plot is enjoyably ludicrous and seems to be heavily influenced by Moonraker (the film not the book) with the South American locations and a nefarious plot to wipe out most of the planet and create a new super race (composed mostly of women here) to take over. The art is slightly Todd McFarlane in style, reminding me of some of his old Spiderman comics, and Bond himself is very square jawed and Bruce Wayne in appearance with black hair and blue eyes. We first meet Bond in Switzerland where he fends off an attack by a beautiful women in his usual unflappable manner and is delighted to receive a call from M telling him he has a new mission. 'As a matter of fact I was hoping for a new assignment. My holiday's gone rather bust.'

Besides the Moonraker influences there is an element of The Spy Who Loved Me too with a ruined temple secret base that can be taken underwater. The book seems to cherry pick some of the more outlandish elements from Cubby Broccoli's more outrageous 007 offerings. The villain is an important part of any James Bond story and the one on offer here is relatively good - although he does cross over into someone you might expect to find in a Marvel Comic battling Spiderman rather more than have anything to do with James Bond. This is by no means an attempt to do the most downbeat or realistic Bond story. Indigo has a rare blood disorder which makes him cold-blooded and he has dosed himself with reptilian DNA. The DNA has given him grey skin, slitted eyes and claws and in addition to attempting to destroy the world from a secret jungle base he's also very into genetic manipulation.

This is where Serpent's Tooth slides into Jurassic Park territory and might strike some Bond fan readers as being somewhat preposterous even for a graphic novel. Indigo, the rascal, is secretly trying to bring back extinct species like dinosaurs. Ian Fleming did once have Bond wrestling with an octopuss or something in Dr No but this is probably taking things a bit too far. He also, in Michael Lonsdale Hugo Drax fashion, has built up a collection of perfect women who he intends will rule the planet with him once he's disposed of most of the current population. If nothing else, it's a lot more exciting than the last Bond film, where the villain's big scheme was trying to gain access to water rights! I quite liked Indigo's henchmen, two albino twins (or clones) named Kane and Abel who are very reminiscent of similar characters in The Matrix Reloaded.

Serpent's Tooth is often fun for touching all the bases of the often grand scale and fantastical cinematic Bond of the sixties and seventies. You have a villain planning to wipe out most of the planet, twin henchmen, Bond dispensing a few deadpan quips and some mildly suggestive lines ('Don't tell me you failed to conquer your peaks'), a secret base that Bond has to snoop around in and escape from, a casino scene, and a range of locations from London to The Arctic to South America to Switzerland. There are also plenty of gadgets courtesy of IQ who gets to visit South America himself with a few toys for Bond. They include an ultrasonic mosquito repellent, a false tooth with explosives inside it, a compass with a homing device and speedboat with rocket launchers and an afterburner. This speedboat is yet another element that reminds one of the Moonraker film.

M and Moneypenny also make an appearance in Serpent's Tooth and M, unavoidably perhaps, does have a definite hint of Bernard Lee about him. Serpent's Tooth doesn't have the same charm as the old James Bond newspaper comic strips from the Daily Express by Jim Lawrence and Yaroslav Horak - and seems further away from the spirit of Ian Fleming - but it is a generally entertaining book with the enjoyable (and at times times over the top) art and frequently bonkers story. I really liked some of the covers and introductory art too which takes the traditional James Bond image and amps it up to 11 with Bond girls and a tuxedo clad James Bond striking various poses with a gun. It feels like a nod to the classic Bond poster art of the Connery and Moore films and is very striking in comparison with the dreadful cut and paste art of the recent Bond films.

Serpent's Tooth is a bit too daft for its own good at times but it's not bad at all and a decent and colourful read for anyone with a fondness for graphic novels and James Bond. 
- Jake


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