When I was at home in the States a couple of years back, I had this ingenious idea to stuff all my childhood comic books in my luggage and take them back with me to the Netherlands. Since then I’ve been going through them one by one, trying to complete any holes in sets and series I could find. And let me tell you there were quite a few random ones. One issue I came across was The Quasimodo Gambit #2, one of Dark Horse Comics’ James Bond in the 90’s. I’ve been a huge James Bond fan for most of my life. I remember buying it out of the sheer curiosity if Bond could translate to the comic book world. Apparently my project was short lived because it was the only Dark Horse Comics’ James Bond issue in my collection.
But now the tables have turned Mr. Bond. Because I no longer have to rely on a ten dollar a week allowance from mowing lawns. And with the power of the internet at my disposal along with suppliers who cater to this very addiction, all of your issues are now mine. So yes, I managed to buy everything and let me tell you, I should’ve done this years ago.
I remember being surprised at how they kept the weirdness of Bond when I was reading Warren Ellis and Jason Master’s Vargr and Eidolon collections from Dynamite. They managed to give him an upgrade to the present time but still managed to keep his Fleming roots. And interestingly Dark Horse did the exact same thing with their books in the 90’s. After reading Serpent’s Tooth from Doug Moench I was completely blown away by how they set the tone and kept all the beats that made the films successful but still managed to make it ooze Fleming.
And that ooziness doesn’t stop with Serpent’s Tooth because Simon Jowett also started to keep the magic going with his wonderful follow up, A Silent Armageddon. That is until John M. Burns apparently couldn’t turn in his art on time and the series abruptly ended. Nevertheless, Jowett had another crack at it with a very good two-parter, Shattered Helix. Again, it’s the sexual weirdness of Bond blending with his movie counterparts and it works best in comic book form. With the non-Fleming novelizations you just felt like many of the authors were trying too hard to be Fleming and it made Bond always feel out of place. Here, they give you the weirdness mixed with the imagery and it just works a lot better.
One could argue this is also the case with the Quasimodo Gambit by Don McGregor and Gary Caldwell. But I would argue that only the purest of Bond fans will enjoy this story. Because there’s a lot of it. What McGregor essentially did was focus on the Fleming elements and he gave you every single beat along the way. Which really makes the number of panels that Caldwell had to draw very impressive. And he does draw every single one with incredible detail. It’s a beautiful book and I would say that McGregor still manages to keep the tone intact and he doesn’t allow his love of Fleming to out do the whole thing. But it’s a close call.
And really this must have been a risky series. To not make Bond over-the-top in the 90’s is quite an accomplishment because I imagine it would’ve been very easy to do so. In a time of the big muscles, boobs, and explosions found throughout these things, these books still have a simplicity and quietness to them. Also the single issues are easy to find and are still cheap.
If you love Bond try digging some of these up. Kudos to Dark Horse for making these and I hope more people discover them. So with that here’s your Dark Horse Comics’ James Bond Reading List.
- Serpent’s Tooth – Doug Moench and Paul Gulacy
- A Silent Armageddon – Simon Jowett and John M. Burns
- Light of my Death (Dark Horse Comics #8-11) – Das Petrou and John Watkiss
- Shattered Helix – Simon Jowett, David Jackson, and David Lloyd
- Minute of Midnight (Dark Horse Comics #25) – Doug Moench and Russ Heath
- The Quasimodo Gambit – Don McGregor and Gary Caldwell