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A Writer’s Commentary: BENJAMIN PERCY on JAMES BOND #3, on sale NOW!

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  • A Writer’s Commentary: BENJAMIN PERCY on JAMES BOND #3, on sale NOW!

    A Writer’s Commentary: BENJAMIN PERCY on JAMES BOND #3, on sale TODAY from Dynamite!

    Page 1

    When I was in Tokyo—on assignment for GQ—I kept seeing signs for love hotels and pleasure hotels. I asked my fixer about them, and she laughed and said, “That’s where you sneak away for a tryst.”

    I always try to make the setting a character in my stories. That’s how I treated Tokyo—and Japan as a whole—as a character with many beautiful and ugly, awesome and weird, noble and crass traits.

    Sex is an essential element to every 007 story, and from the very first moment Bond and Selah Sax met, there’s been a dangerous spark. We wonder here whether things are going to heat up…

    Page 2

    But no. A reversal. Just when we’re made vulnerable with the possibility of arousal, Selah turns the tables. She’s not putting out, and she’s also not putting up with Bond either. She brought him here to lock him up, so that she can get on with her own mission.

    I’ve been re-watching some of the old Bond films with my kids, and I’ve cringed at their misogyny. So I’m trying to antidote that here. Selah Sax is repeatedly showing up 007.

    Cool, noir-ish bordello coloring here from Chris O’Halloran.

    Page 3

    At last! No Name. The henchmen are always my favorite element in any Bond story, and No Name is my favorite thing about the Black Box story arc. I’ve been eager to introduce him to the readers.

    But you’ll see how Rapha keeps him out of view. We see him without seeing him. That’s important in building up his off-stage mythology. You fear and dread what you don’t know.

    Page 4

    No Name is an assassin who collects the death masks of those he kills. We gave him a trophy case, a wall display, inspired by the Hall of Faces in Game of Thrones and Dr. Ford’s office in Westworld.

    For such a grotesque reveal, we needed a splash to visually telegraph the awe and horror.

    Pages 5 and 6

    Stories are made up of peaks and valleys. Before a big action set-piece (which is a peak), you need a moment of repose (a valley). This is when you set up the stakes of the situation, so that the pulse-pounding action emotionally resonates (and isn’t simple spectacle for spectacle’s sake).

    So here we have Bond and Boothroyd verbally sparring (their almost familial relationship is important to me). Following up the continuing mystery of Selah Sax (a B plot). And setting up the continuing mystery of Saga Genji and the black box (the A plot).

    Page 7

    After giving you a bit of a breather from No Name, we’re back—as he readies for his mission against Bond. We still don’t see his face (again, contributing to the off-stage mythology), but as he dons one of the death masks, Rapha gives you a glimpse of some scars (which are a recurring motif in the story arc). The scars you carry with you, inside and out. Bond villains always have deformities, and his connects to one of our central themes.

    Pages 8 and 9

    Here’s another example of setting as character. The Kukygican Arena in Tokyo. A sumo tournament. It’s hard to imagine a better backdrop for a Bond adventure, right? Every issue has a central action set-piece. Here it comes, as Bond spies on Saga Gengi speaking to a U.S. senator…

    Page 10

    There’s a checklist in every Bond story, and I’ve just notched another one off. Felix Leitner. Bond’s CIA frenemy. His presence there adds another wrinkle to the story.

    We guess that—due to Saga meeting with the U.S. senator, due to Felix trailing Bond—that the UK isn’t the only one affected by the data breach. The stakes just shot up. And Bond is now being pursued not only by No Name, but by the Americans.

    Page 11

    And here’s No Name, lurking in the shadows. We wanted to give him a shark-like quality in the way he essentially gets that first whiff of blood, circles, tests, then strikes.

    Right now he’s the equivalent of a fin cutting the surface of the water.

    Page 12

    The two sumo wrestlers crash together, a kind of parallel to what’s about to happen with our central character. Rapha does a great job getting close here, so that we feel entangled, overcome by their grotesque physicality.

    Page 13

    We studied a lot of YouTube clips and visual references to make certain we capture the movements and rules and rituals of sumo wrestling. You’ll see that on display here.

    You’ll also see…everything about to turn.

    No Name is hunting Bond…and something’s about to happen with the sumo wrestler here, as he makes eyes with Saga Genji and then hurls his opponent out of the ring.

    Page 14

    And, with the page turn, we get the reveal: the dominated wrestler has been shoved and chucked onto the U.S. Senator, crushing him.

    Don’t mess with Saga Genji. He has no physical prowess, as an old man, but his influence extends to others. He’s a kind of puppeteer in that way.

    Page 15

    I hate selfie sticks. The only thing they’re good for is beating the person who wields one. I’ve been wanting to use one in a story for some time.

    So as No Name moves in, knife at the ready, Bond glances up and sees No Name in the screen of a phone that’s about to snap a picture. The ultimate photo bomb.

    Page 16

    He dodges out of the way for this great slash—a splash page that has so much deadly energy to it. Nice job, Rapha. It makes me flinch back, as though the knife might reach through the page.

    Page 17

    And now—for the first time ever?—a selfie stick becomes a weapon. Bond snatches it and uses it as a kind of quarter staff, battling back against the knife thrusts and slashes.

    Page 18 and 19

    No Name’s scars have been hinted at, and when Bond breaks his mask, we see a monster made vulnerable. He covers himself up, essentially naked and powerless.

    So many people surround him, watching, taking photos, and he rushes away.

    The relevance of this moment will continue to circle back into the story until it culminates in the final issue.

    The story is about compromised data. About how easy it is to be stalked, pirated, erased in this era of cyber terror. I liked the idea of everyone raising their phones here and snapping photos of the melee.

    That’s the only thing that keeps Saga’s men from blasting Bond. Someone is always watching in this era of surveillance.

    Page 20 and 21

    As we head off into the night, as Bond finds his Aston Martin and reconnects with Boothroyd via the comm, I just want to give mad props to Rapha for drawing an arena scene. Most artists would have murdered me with their bare hands. But he was excited for the challenge, and he did an amazing job giving the sumo scenes a sense of depth with a cinematic balance of close, medium and wide shots.

    This is a moment when we catch our breath…but only for a half-second…

    Page 22

    Cliffhanger! The final page of every comic is an advertisement for the next. You want to see Bond in a car chase with a Yakuza motorcycle gang through the streets of nighttime Tokyo?

    Of course you do.