James Bond 007 - Hammerhead

James Bond 007: Hammerhead is a James Bond comic written by Andy Diggle and illustrated by Luca Casalanguida. It consists of six issues (which were published in 2016 and 2017). The collected graphic novel is 120 pages. What is the plot of Hammerhead? An arms company named Hunt Engineering is given the contract to upgrade Britain's nuclear missile system but comes under attack from an anti-capitalist figure known as Kraken. Lord Bernard Hunt, the head of Hunt Engineering, is assassinated at a lavish arms gala but Bond manages to save his daughter Victoria Hunt (who now assumes leadership of the company). Bond is tasked with the investigation and soon deduces that someone is trying to steal the Royal Navy's Trident ballistic missiles and (wouldn't you know it?) blow up London.
The title of this comic derives from Hunt Engineering's most remarkable new invention - the 'Hammerhead'. The Hammerhead is a huge rail-gun that can fire a missile at a target two thousand miles away and be adapted to carry a nuclear payload. You obviously wouldn't want this weapon falling into the wrong hands. Bond's investigation takes him to Dubai, Yemen, and the North Sea and, needless to say, there might be a few shifting loyalties and double crosses along the way.
I haven't really been keeping up with the more recent James Bond comics so Hammerhead is the first one I've read in a while. I gather this follows on from some Bond comics by Warren Ellis which seem to have a better reputation than Hammerhead. Anyway, what about Hammerhead? Is it any good? Hammerhead is a mixed bag with some parts that are very good and other parts that feel half-baked and derivative. This comic never really grabbed me in the way that a great comic does but you wouldn't say it was bad - just not especially memorable. It passed the time but rarely did more than that.
The interesting thing about Hammerhead is that the recent Bond films feel like they've had little influence on the comic - save perhaps for Moneypenny. The character of Moneypenny in Hammerhead is black and more of a bodyguard to M than his secretary. This Moneypenny is definitely someone who has been a field agent. At one point she puts a gun to M's head and threatens to kill him to prevent state secrets from falling into enemy hands! James Bond is drawn in Hammerhead to look like a cross between Pierce Brosnan and Timothy Dalton and feels rather like Sean Connery's 1960s Bond wandering around in the present day. He's a little anachronistic in a Milk-Tray Man sort of way. The one-liners and innuendo of the classic Bond films is largely eschewed though. This Bond hardly makes any quips at all. At one point he says "he bit off more than he could chew" (or something like that) when someone is eaten by a shark but the version of Bond in this comic is, for the most part, strictly business.
The action in the comic often owes more to the Mission Impossible films than recent Bond adventures - especially a mission Bond is on when we first meet him. The comic is quite violent at times with people getting shot in the head (with blood splattering all over the panel) and their throats cut but this is mitigated by the medium (violence in comics never really feels that shocking to me). When it comes to action there are some very good set-pieces in the comic. Trapped by a gun toting baddie in an aquarium, Bond shoots the glass and the place floods with water and (of course!) sharks. In another good sequence, the computer in Bond's gadget laden Ford Mustang (which even has Predator style infra-red vision) is hacked by the villains and the car promptly ejects Bond and then tries to kill him with machine guns and missiles! This would make a great sequence in a Bond film.

I can't, for fear of spoilers, say too much about the true identity of the villain and their motivation but it's quite clever the way the baddie specifically wants to use the rail-gun to essentially blackmail other nations (and not in the way you might think). It's quite novel too to see (mild spoiler) a major female baddie here as Bond's nemesis. The weakness of the story though is that the plot essentially devolves into Bond having to stop a missile from blowing up London. This is hardly the most original or exciting idea for a Bond story! It's just about the laziest Bond plot anyone could come up with. Hammerhead doesn't really try to anchor itself in the modern or 'real' world too much, which is a relief. I read comics to escape from the real world not be reminded of it. The modern references (things like bitcoin and 'eurocrats' get a mention) are a bit jarring but, generally, if you took all the computer scenes away, they could easily have set this story in the 1960s.
Would this make a good story for a Bond film? It might do but you'd have to make some changes. There are some really good sequences here (aside from the ones we've already mentioned) like Bond landing on the deck of a British submarine and the big arms fair in Dubai coming under attack - all of which would make good scenes for the Bond films. There's a character called Karim Malfakhar too, a Yemeni smuggler who is known as the Fox. He ends up working with Bond and reminds one somewhat of Kristatos. You could see this character working out quite well in a Bond film. However, far too much of the last part of the comic takes place at sea with the villain on a boat (which has a rail-gun and Bond villain lair with banks of computer screens) and Bond and the Royal Navy trying to foil these nefarious plans. The last part of this comic reminded me WAY too much of the waterlogged last act of Tomorrow Never Dies and is probably the weakest part of the comic.
Hammerhead is quite down to earth for most of the story with Bond infiltrating places (actual espionage!) but then becomes increasingly silly in the third act. As a consequence of this, the tone of the comic is a little wayward overall. Hammerhead can't quite decide if it wants to be a tough little thriller or a fantastical Bond film homage and falls in the middle somewhere, never quite sure of its footing. The artwork in Hammerhead is passable if not remarkable. It feels a little flat at times but is generally competent and does not detract from the story. I got through Hammerhead quite quickly and while it was never a chore I wouldn't exactly describe it as a pleasure either. There are some very nice moments here and there but, generally, Hammerhead never really lodges in the memory or manages to become anything more than a readable but average sort of comic.
- Jake

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