Javier E. Trujillo reviews issues 8 through 12 of Dynamite’s 2019 comic book series.
007 continues his infiltration of Goldfinger’s operation, but has he gone so far he can never return?
Writer: Greg Pak
Artists: Eric Gapstur, Robert Carey
Colorist: Roshan Kurichiyanil
Letterer: Ariana Maher
Logo Designer: Geoff Harkins
Covers: Dave Johnson, Khoi Pham, Steve Lieber & Ryan Hill, Eric Gapstur & Chris O’Halloran, Kano, Phil Hester & Eric Gapstur & Chris O’Halloran, Robert Carey & Ellie Wright, Gleb Melnikov, Ben Caldwell
Packager & Editor: Nate Cosby
In an undisclosed Oru lab, Bond is having his reward implant procedure. Once the particulars of his obedience have been established, he is let in on Goldfinger’s plot-to steal diamonds from a rogue cell of Oru and eliminate everyone there via nerve gas. 007 points out that the world will not know if a secret facility is destroyed quietly by nerve gas and so the plan is changed. Bond, Oddjob, and Agent K will blow it up instead!
The trio head to Kimberley, South Africa to infiltrate the facility whilst MI6 watches via hologram, wondering if 007 has been turned or if he’s playing a role. They take out the Oru guards, but leave the civilian workers unharmed. Bond sets off one of the bombs that’s attached to a generator, creating an electromagnetic pulse, freeing them from their control implants! Moneypenny swoops in to recover the team for their safe return to MI6.
However, James Bond and friends are now in quarantine and forbidden to follow up on the operation to take down Goldfinger. Based on their intel, M believes that Goldfinger is going to attack Olympitech Paradise, an artificial island off the international waters of San Francisco where thousands of the world’s rich reside as a tax haven. By destroying it and throwing the economy in turmoil, Goldfinger would increase the value of his gold. 007, Oddjob, and Aria “escape” their confinement, to make it look like MI6 is on the hunt for them and they have returned to their master. That ruse doesn’t last long as Aria quickly kills the scientist who devised the control implants.
With Agent K having declared open season on Oru’s agents, Goldfinger eliminates all those who are abandoning him. Bond and company head to Olympitech Paradise, running into Dr. Feng, head of security. He believes they are the people he hired to assist him to expose the director, who has been into human trafficking and money laundering and gotten away with it due to his wealth. Instead, the trio have figured out how Goldfinger plans to murder all on the island. Feng takes them to a trash heap where over a hundred corpses reside, victims of Olympitech’s director. Now that his crimes have been made known, they wish to take him out as well. Just then, Goldfinger appears and offers that they team up to destroy their new mutual enemy.
Agent K launches an attack on Goldfinger and his men, but while the men are real, Goldfinger is an elaborate hologram. Since his men are on the way to release the deadly nerve gas, and the authorities are on the way to stop them and protect the director, Goldfinger proposes that Bond and Company eliminate the director and then Goldfinger will help them stop his teams before they kill everyone.
The trio head to the top of the director’s building, just in time for Goldfinger’s assault to begin. The director is rushed to his panic room by one of the security team. Oddjob manages to kick one of the nerve gas rockets and stop it, enabling Bond to kick it in the panic room beside the director. A well-placed kick from Agent K keeps the director from fleeing and he gets stuck inside the room with the gas as it seals. The mission complete, Oddjob and Aria run off together for parts unknown.
Some time later, Goldfinger is at his home in Latvia, rejoicing that the price of gold is skyrocketing after the scandal of Olympitech has been uncovered. Bond sneaks into Goldfinger’s vault and punches him. A team from MI6 arrives and apprehends everyone there and Bond and Moneypenny ride off into the horizon.
The 21st Century Goldfinger remix becomes even more apparent as the series continues into its back half of issues!
Eric Gapstur continues the art chores in #8. Perhaps I’m getting used to his more cartoony style, but I appreciate what he’s trying to do here. He provides an air of menace to Bond’s surgical procedure and indoctrination. It all feels fairly grizzly and painful, especially as Bond’s body arcs in pain when the penalty system is applied. Dr. Essen is appropriately malevolent, illuminated by the glare of his computer screen as Bond is put to the test against Mr. Lee. It’s a far more sadistic scene than a slow moving laser beam as the two bludgeon each other.
As Goldfinger welcomes Bond into the criminal fold and starts to unveil his initial plan, Gapstur’s depiction lets the villain down. Goldfinger’s visual lacks any menace, coming off as smug and jovial.
Meanwhile, the MI6 team is monitoring the situation, worried that 007 may have turned, despite there being little evidence to support that. I understand they have to be cautious, but at this stage of Bond’s implant being installed, he seems very much his own man and a free thinker, not the dissociative slave Agent K is at times, with no memory of her past life.
For all Goldfinger’s great planning, it took Bond’s involvement to realize the flaw of quietly taking out a secret installation. Whilst it seems Bond has only made his task of not hurting the civilians more difficult, I enjoyed Pak’s turning around of the situation, enabling Bond to free himself from the control of the implant. Unlike many comics, where one is privy to a character’s thoughts via word balloons or boxes of text, Pak chooses not to employ that technique, having Bond’s actions speak for him. This lets him keep the surprise of 007’s trickery when it comes to breaking their shackles of control.
Issue #9 sees the transition in artists from Gapstur to Carey, but not before Gapstur uses a splash page to depict how 007, Oddjob, and Agent K take out the Oru operatives at the diamond facility. Its black backdrop and occasional use of silhouette are evocative of the main title sequences many have come to love from the film series.
I’m typically not a fan of multiple artists working on the same issue and #9 is no exception. The transition is jarring, particularly in print, where it goes from the caricatured, smooth style of Gapstur, to the more detailed, rough, and edgy art of Carey.
Carey takes the batton and carries it for the duration of the series. His figures can be a bit stiff at times, but I feel his style is better suited as we get into some of the more unpleasant acts of violence, adding a layer of grit and nastiness. Goldfinger is far more perverse and malevolent in scenes where he is orgasmic at the touch of gold, or punishing those who have let him down.
Flashbacks for Aria/Agent K give us hints as to what she went through, but offer little in the way of insight as to who she is outside of the Oru brainwashing. She recuperates quite quickly from her ordeal and while that makes sense for Lee and Bond, it doesn’t play as well for her. She is the true wild card of the group, but we never feel that there is any risk of her lapsing back to Goldfinger’s side.
This brings us to a Bond who is once again rogue, wanted by his own government, or so we’re led to believe. It’s all a farce though, in the hopes that Goldfinger will let them back in so they can continue to infiltrate and dismantle Oru from within. Since no one has let Aria in on this plan, it quickly falls apart as she aims for revenge, taking out Dr. Essen and threatening Oru with a mass group message.
M and Moneypenny are actually the ones to piece Goldfinger’s true intent together in #10, something 007 doesn’t latch on to until the next chapter. It’s much appreciated that we see how smart they are, but it makes Bond deducing it in #11 quite redundant, especially if you’re familiar with the 1964 film adaptation.
Pak tries to differentiate himself from said movie by adding in another layer of villainy-the director of Olympitech Paradise, a Jeffrey Epstein-type, who can get away with his crimes due to his wealth. This gives our heroes a reason to side with Goldfinger and assist with his plan of destabilization.
This sets the stage for the final issue’s big set piece, the raid of the director’s penthouse, which Oru will use as a vantage point from which to strike, thereby murdering the island’s inhabitants. It struck me as a tad silly when Oddjob was able to deflect the nerve gas rocket with a kick, but it enables him, Bond, and Agent K to play a vital part in the director’s demise. It’s one of those over-the-top Bond moments that you either accept or don’t. This is a world with state of the art hologram surveillance, so sometimes it’s best to just not question it.
While the director’s coup de grace was quite satisfying for a character we didn’t know, it leaves us with the problem that Goldfinger wins. Yes, Bond was able to save the people on Olympitech Paradise and Goldfinger gave over intel to dismantle Oru, but the economy was still plunged into turmoil, enriching Goldfinger. Whist the economy is nowhere near as important as human lives, he still achieved his objective.
Speaking of objectives, Oddjob has liberated the mind of his love, Agent K, and Lee and Aria run off together, hopefully to find some solace. It felt very appropriate that Bond allow them to leave, rather than report back for debriefing. Lee has been on this quest to redeem her and it finally pays off for him, reflected in the mutual respect he and 007 have developed over the course of these twelve issues.
If you were hoping for more insight into Lee, why he was Oddjob, and what that legacy was, you’re bound to be sorely disappointed. In fact, the trappings of Oddjob have fallen by the wayside as the series progressed and that, coupled with the frequent use of his real name, John Lee, led to me forgetting who he really was at times. Lee carries the emotional stakes for this story, leaving Bond often feeling like a sidekick in his own title.
Adding to that dissatisfaction was Bond’s final confrontation with Goldfinger. An undisclosed amount of time has passed since the fall of Olympitech Paradise and Goldfinger is living his best life, surrounded by gold trappings. Bond phones him, asking, “Why gold?” Goldfinger’s reason is simple. The world is filth, but gold is clean. Carey and Pak further illustrate his fetishization by having him rub a gold bar in his private vault.
It is here that 007 steps out of the shadows and punches Goldfinger, spraying the villain’s blood over the pristine, shining bars.
And that’s it. Goldfinger is defeated. No being sucked out of a plane at high altitude a la the film, no strangling each other to death as in the original novel. It’s as anti-climactic as it sounds. While we do see law enforcement making arrests of Goldfinger’s men, we don’t see him taken into custody. It’s possible Bond utilizes his double-0, but that’s left to the reader’s imagination and it doesn’t enhance the story even if he did. It’s still off-camera, so to speak.
To add insult to injury, Bond climbs into a vehicle beside a waiting Moneypenny and the pair drive off into the mountains with a cheesy depiction of Oddjob, Aria, Bond, MoneyPenny, and M in the sky. I’m serious, Bond and Moneypenny even look like they’re off to audition for the next Tarantino gangster picture, clad in black suit and tie. It’s ridiculous.
This series had a lot of promise and a strong start. The premise of a modern Oddjob was intriguing, especially from a writer like Pak, whose work I’ve enjoyed at DC Comics. As it went on, it felt inconsistent from both an art and story perspective. In a world where we are still waiting for the next Bond film to come out post-Spectre, I’m happy to have any new Bond product, but the character often takes a back seat in this narrative. If only it could have finished strong and stuck the landing, it could be possibly overlooked, but that was not the case here. Fortunately, there is a new volume following this, which means JAMES BOND WILL RETURN!
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