James Bond is practically a self-parody already, and that’s made parodying Bond surprisingly hard. Most attempts try to exaggerate what’s already so far over the top it’s practically in space, and consequently just fall flat. What makes Kingsman: The Red Diamond, which begins today from Image Comics, stand out is that it manages to affectionately parody Bond while being its own version of super-spy action.
Eggsy, our Bond stand-in is stuck between two worlds. His job requires him to be a posh, smooth secret agent, but he’s still a knockabout lower-class kid at heart, no matter how hard he works. No matter what he does, he can’t fit in with the snobs and the slobs think he’s decided he’s too good for them. It’s played for laughs, but underneath there’s a pang. Eggsy can try all he wants, but as respected and wealthy as he is, he can’t buy or punch his way into people’s hearts.
Rob Williams cleverly picks up on Mark Millar’s original take with witty action; a rescue mission for Prince Phillip goes hilariously awry. Simon Fraser backs it up with some cleverly rendered sequences, starting off with a thrilling chase in London and then a substantially less thrilling but just as funny babysitting sequence. All throughout Williams and Fraser weave little gags, including a pretty funny discussion about the directors of the Terminator franchise. It’s absurd, but then, so’s everything about Bond, and mixing it with some pointed notes on class gives Kingsman the approach it needs to stand out. Bond himself would approve.
Lazaretto #1, BOOM! Studios
Charles is a closeted gay man debating coming out now that he’s at school. Tamara is a small-town girl terrified by college. In normal times, they might grow form a friendship. But a plague has hit their college, and they’re in much deeper trouble than either of them realize. Clay McLeod Chapman writes an issue that cleverly sets everything up without feeling exposition-heavy, while Jey Levang’s art manages to communicate both delicate human emotion and flat-out grossness with equal aplomb. It’s a fascinating idea, off to a great start, and we’ll be interested to see where it goes.
Dastardly And Muttley #1, DC Comics
Garth Ennis, as a writer, tends to swing wildly between two poles: Getting laughs by butchering sacred cows with a dull chainsaw, and solemn, respectful seriousness. One week it’s Dogwelder, who does what you think he does, next week it’s noble sacrifice for country by the Rhine. So he seems at best an awkward fit even for DC’s swing-for-the-fences reinvention of Hanna-Barbera shows, particularly one about a dimestore Snidely Whiplash and his cackling dog. But, oddly, Ennis is restrained just enough that it works. Dastardly and Muttley here are the nicknames of two Air Force pilots who stumble over a bizarre weapon that has, uh, unusual side effects. Mauricet helps everything along with his absolutely deadpan art; take out the dialogue and you’d think you were reading a serious, if bizarre, military thriller, at least until the final splash panel. It’s definitely weird, but you won’t forget it, either.
Made Men #1, Oni Press
Frankenstein stories aren’t unusual, but Paul Tobin and Arjuna Susini have a fun take on it: The Frankensteins were much more than what you find in the book, and Jutte Frankenstein, the granddaughter of the Frankensteins, has just lost everyone she’s ever loved. But she can bring them back… and she can unleash them on the people who hurt her. Tobin is no stranger to horror, of course, but Susini’s crisp line and the sense of humor that pervades the book, which leans every so slightly on how this could be a lost ’90s action flick, makes it a hoot.
Iceman #5, Marvel
Sina Grace and Alessandro Vitti follow up a hilarious issue with a surprisingly tough read. Bobby is officially out to his parents as gay and they are not happy about it. While this issue has some superbly rendered superheroics, as Bobby beats the ever-loving crap out of the Juggernaut, that’s window dressing for a brutal conversation between a man finally owning who he is and the parents who act like he’s just being selfish. This issue can be a tough read in part because Grace keeps it grounded in believable real-world experiences. It’s not histrionic or excessive, but Bobby’s parents are worse in the sense that they’re unthinking and cruel, in some ways, even if they don’t intend to be. It’s a brilliant issue in what’s become one of Marvel’s best series, and one not to be missed.
Astro City #47, DC Comics: This book stars a superhero corgi. OK, fine, fine, Kurt Busiek and Mike Norton (who you might know from Battlepug) also deliver a tribute to how owning a pet can change you, superhero or not (although the story had better not end the way the cliffhanger is implying).
Animosity: The Rise #3, Aftershock: Marguerite Bennett and Juan Doe ask a pretty entertaining question: What if the animals became sentient, able to speak and took over? What would their society be like? Quite a bit of fun, it turns out.
Journey To Star Wars: The Last Jedi: Captain Phasma #1: Wondering how Captain Phasma escaped an exploding planet? Kelly Thompson and Marco Checchetto have an answer, and it’s bad news for anyone who got Phasma in trouble.
Harbinger: Renegade #7, Valiant: One thing that can get lost in this book is that the psiots, as powerful as they are, are still children. And when kids die, their parents deserve to know. This title needed that emotional grounding, and this helps confirm it as Valiant’s most thoughtful team book.
Nancy Drew And The Hardy Boys: The Big Lie #6, Dynamite: This reinvention of the kiddie mysteries wraps up perfectly, with a noirish ending that still pays tribute to the more absurd parts of those books.
This Week’s Best Collections
Marvel Masterworks: Luke Cage, Power Man Vol. 2, Marvel (Hardcover, $75): Now you can experience the original comics that introduced the world to Carl Lucas, the man with steel hard skin and mighty thews, in his solo book. Which is well meaning, but, uh, remember that 40 years or so have passed before you crack the cover.
Superf***ers Forever, IDW Publishing (Softcover, $18): James Kolchalka’s take on superheroes (as you might guess he’s not a fan) is hilarious, profane, and oddly insightful as to why awful people perhaps don’t deliberately set out to do awful things, but fall afoul of their own shortcomings.
The Black Beetle: Kara Bocek, Dark Horse (Hardcover, $13): Come for Francesco Francavilla’s gorgeous art and brilliant layouts, stay for a fun story about a pulp hero who never was.