There have been many great James Bond stories over the last 65 years, but few are as unique as Ian Fleming's 1953 original, Casino Royale.
Set in France against the backdrop of a high stakes game of Baccarat, Fleming's first featured a very different take on 007 than the one we've come to know. This Bond is not the suave, sophisticated spy known for clever gadgets and femme fatales, this version is an extremely dull, uninteresting man who is more a blunt instrument than anything else.
Tasked by the higher-ups within MI6 to bankrupt a member of the Russian Secret Service, Bond is bankrolled into the game and sets about his mission. It's unlike any Bond book you've ever read, and late last year, Dynamite Comics teamed up with the Fleming Estate to bring this classic tome to life as a beautifully crafted hardcover graphic novel.
Spearheaded by the creative team of Van Jensen and Dennis Calero, James Bond: Casino Royale serves as a rather stylish adaption of Fleming's original work. Jensen directs the affair, perfectly transitions the original script to this new medium and making it relatable to a new generation of fans looking to experience this classic piece of Fleming literature for the first time.
Now, as we said above, this is not the James Bond that you'll be expecting. This version is actually more than a little outdated - brash, arrogant, and quite misogynistic. A product of a bygone era, Fleming's original 007 is also not the sharpest tool in the shed, which ends up getting him captured and tortured by his foes. Fortunately, and only by the grace of God, is Bond able to survive the ordeal - which we're assuming helped shape the character into the version we'd come to know years down the line.
Still, watching this man operate can be quite frustrating on occasion! He's just so full of himself that he is, for all intents and purposes, a real jackass. If he'd just slow down and think, he could've avoided many of the predicaments he finds himself in throughout the book. Thank goodness he's got people like Vesper Lynd, Felix Leiter and Rene Mathis watching his back.
Regardless and despite the overall dullness of this Bond, we still found this book quite entertaining. Sure, most of the plot takes place within the confines of the casino, but there are still some intense confrontations, an explosion or two, and even a brief car chase to break up the seemingly never ending game of Baccarat. And yet, even that aspect of the story is enjoyable, made all the more entertaining by the addition of Van Jensen's Bond-Vision. This unique inner dialogue is basically a visual representation of the analysis going on inside Bond’s head, and it is something that actually further immerses readers into this world, while reminding them that this is a man who must use his mind, and not some superhuman powers, to complete his mission.
Aside from the excellent adaption of the novel's plot, there is also the striking art of Dennis Calero. The man has perfectly captured the time period of this book, with some bold and beautiful illustrations that highlight his skills as an artist. Additionally, Calero is an expert at using shadows to heighten the tensions throughout this book, bathing characters and locations in appropriate levels of darkness as the script calls for it. It can be both beautiful and terrifying in spots - particularly during the barbaric torture scene involving Bond's confrontation with Le Chiffre.
The end result is an extremely unique and satisfying read that we can't recommend enough to fans of Fleming's classic spy. Yes, this book may be wholly absent of all the quips, gadgets, the girls that the James Bond franchise has become known for over the last few decades, but Dynamite's adaption of Casino Royale is a fascinating time capsule that takes readers back to where it all began.
He may very well not be your Bond, but he is The Bond, the one that started it all!
Van Jensen and Dennis Calero have perfectly captured the spirit of Ian Fleming's original book and successfully transferred it into a new and exciting medium that fans of MI6's favorite super spy are sure to enjoy from beginning to end!
Rating: 5/5 - "Wholly absent of all the quips, gadgets, the girls that the James Bond franchise has become known for, Dynamite's adaption of Casino Royale is a fascinating look at the Bond that started it all!"
James Bond: Casino Royale is available at comic and book stores now!
You won't want to pass it up!
Special thanks to Alan Payne of Dynamite Entertainment for making this review possible.
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