Nov 10, 2020
James Bond: VARGR #5 (part 5 of 6)
Last time: Bond fought Bishop… wait, Bishop? His name’s Masters. Where the hell did Bishop come from?! God, I have to stop writing these things at 3 AM. And my cats are useless at editing; I have no idea why I still keep them around. Anyway, perhaps for the first time ever, a guy won a fight by making his opponent feel better. Kurjak delivered a monologue explaining his master plan to infect Great Britain and turn it into one huge science experiment, and left Bond sweating it out as the lab got sterilized.
Things are seriously heating up as Bond looks desperately around the lab, because his original plan to burn a hole in the door failed since there was another door that came down due to the sterilization procedures. He spots a gas tank and grabs it, then wedges it into the hole. Taking cover behind an examination table, he shoots!
He scores! Staggering out of the hole and into the street, Bond takes a very real moment to just bend over and take a few cool breaths and savor the moment that 1) he ain’t dead, and 2) Kurjak doesn’t know he ain’t dead either. He pulls out his phone, but unfortunately, it’s been temporarily disabled due to heat. I’m sure James knows how that feels. Unlike James, the phone overheating can’t be fixed by a cold beer, and it’ll just have to cool down on its own. Bond does a little cooling down on his own… by lighting up a cigarette and inhaling the hot smoke into his lungs.
Later, Bill Tanner’s assistant gets a call that Bond has walked into the British embassy. He tells her to get him on the next flight out back to Heathrow and to have a car waiting for him. In a nice little Easter egg, he instructs her to have the name “Peter Franks” on the arrivals placard. FYI, Peter Franks was the name of the smuggler Bond kills and whose identity he assumes in the film Diamonds are Forever. At Heathrow, Bond is met by a man with the “Peter Franks” sign, who hands James a fresh cell phone and asks what he did with his gun. Bond explains he broke it down and ditched it in the Spree (a river running through Berlin, because I know a couple of you are wondering) before he lit out of town. The guy says Q will be thrilled. Well, yeah; he hated that gun, so…
Bond calls Bill, who asks him how his flight was. I’m guessing Tanner’s assistant forced Bond to fly coach because everyone’s on a budget these days, and they aren’t exactly handing out exploding pens and laser beam watches any more, let alone gadget-laden Astin Martins. Bond tells Bill he’d come over and shoot the man if he still had a gun, and this would be a whole lot funnier if I didn’t know Bond is a borderline sociopath who’s just coming off a really bad day. Tanner takes it in stride and tells Bond he isn’t going home or to some brothel or bar to decompress; he’s coming back to the office, because things got seriously bad overnight. Bond goes in to get debriefed.
See what they’ve done here? They’ve put Bond in the most uncomfortable seat. And while he’s both mentally and physically exhausted, M belittles Bond and Tanner giggles. It’s all to ensure Bond knows his place. M’s shit talking actually has me feeling sorry for Bond here. The guy almost gets killed right off the plane (a situation that could have been avoided if he had been armed), discovers his cover was blown by supposed allies, and gets directed to a drug den to be set up for assassination. Then he’s beaten to within an inch of his life by that guy whose name I can’t keep straight, and then finally narrowly escapes getting cooked. I get that you don’t want James to get a swelled head, but Jesus Christ, man. And screw you for snickering, Tanner. I’m guessing you’re flying a desk because you couldn’t hack it in the field. Your idea of a war wound is a paper cut.
M decides he’s had enough of low blows from on high and moves on. He shows James a picture of Dharma Reach in US Army fatigues. Her real name? Dharma Reach. So… she didn’t even try to give an alias earlier? I guess she didn’t think she would have to bother with an alias, so certain was she that she could kill James outside the airport. It turns out she lost her forearms building an IED to kill her superiors, because she was torturing prisoners at a POW camp and killing the bosses would have derailed the investigation. I’m not sure what her backup plan was after the replacement bosses were sent, but Dharma doesn’t exactly sound like someone who thinks past tomorrow. As for the guy not named Bishop, he was an escapee from a mental institution. Yeah, remember a couple of issues ago when I said Kurjak was the real monster? I take it back.
M continues the brief, stating the virus has broken out and a dozen places are in lockdown. The infected drugs are still getting into the country somehow, and Bond has to go liaise with MI-5 who, by the way, will have guns. And James?
Does the guy spend his spare time coming up with ways to cut Bond down? Does he practice in front of the mirror? In front of his wife? Maybe his kids are writing his material for him, because after a while it all sounds kind of, you know, juvenile. M tells Bond to get a car from the garage, but James says he’ll take his own and not one of their “fleet of rusting Fiats”. And just when you think James is free and clear…
Damn, with treatment like this, I’m shocked James ever comes into the office.
Outside in the hallway, James examines his legal knife and finds out from Tanner that MI-5 is stretched thin and won’t be at the site until late afternoon, which gives James time for a shower and a bit of bed. He seems so knackered, he might even skip the prostitutes. Damn, now I’m even doing it. That evening at the docks, James finds himself driving through a maze of shipping containers as he searches for the MI-5 crew. He finally puts in a call to base to find out where they are, which is something I bet he was dreading, because no matter who he speaks with he’ll have to endure more ridicule from civil servants. Just then, however…
Bet you wish you were driving one of those shitbox Fiats now, don’t you, Jimbo? I’m guessing the insurance report will be an epic tome of lies and misdirection. Bond’s Bentley flips, airbags explode, and James unbuckles his seatbelt. Miraculously, the car doesn’t go flying into the Thames and instead bounces off the concrete lip along the dock. He takes one look out of the passenger window and sees Dharma Reach exit the SUV. James pulls out… damn, I’m not sure what it is. It’s not Moneypenny’s gift; it looks to me more like an ice pick or an awl. Does that come standard with Bentleys in the event your airbag deploys? I’m not trying to be a smart ass… this time.
Reach punches through the passenger window and tears the car door off its hinges, and tosses it aside. She screams, “You killed him!” and if this were a Roger Moore film, I could imagine James saying something like, “Could you be more specific, dear?” In this case, we’re going more for a Daniel Craig vibe as Bond responds, “Tortured him, too.” Rather than just shoot Bond, Reach shrieks melodramatically towards the heavens and starts ranting, probably because she’s a hundred percent sure James isn’t armed and she can kill him at her leisure. Lady, the guy survived several death traps in one day, including your psycho boyfriend; anybody else would just end him before he has a chance to think of a way out. Then again, I’m guessing James by now had a pretty good idea how Reach would react and said just the right thing to push her buttons, which gives him enough time to pull his pin. Out of his grenade, I mean.
What, so guns are illegal in Great Britain, but knives and grenades aren’t? Or did James stop by Q branch and pretty much steal anything not locked up? I could actually see him doing that. I’m guessing the grenade wasn’t offensive or defensive and instead maybe was a flash-bang, so James would have been protected behind the body of his car while Reach has stardust in her eyes of blue. Bond leaps over his battered Bentley and onto Reach, and he jabs his ice pick/awl into her right wrist and pries open the covering. Reach responds by punching Bond in the face, and I think the fact his jaw isn’t broken by now with his chicklets strewn all over the dock is probably the most unrealistic thing about this comic. Reach goes for her piece but Bond kicks her in the back of the leg. She staggers and Bond almost gets to the pistol first, but then…
Well, Bond’s been punched in the metaphorical balls all throughout this issue, so getting it for reals comes as no surprise. Reach says she doesn’t need a gun; Bond’s response is a knee to the gut. She gives him a punch to the kidneys and he’ll probably be peeing blood for a week. Bond pops out Moneypenny’s gift and slashes into Reach’s left wrist. She lands a right cross, but James continues carving into her. She punches him in the chest then kicks him in the sack, and at this point I’d just give up and beg her to shoot me. As Reach retrieves her pistol, Bond points out through clenched teeth that turning your back on an opponent is kind of arrogant. Reach replies that Bond’s another “dead white guy”. Damn, girl, why you gotta bring race and gender into it? I’m shocked you didn’t accuse him of mansplaining, too. Reach points out how even though Bond messed up her wrists, her hands still work. She starts to talk about how much of a genius Slaven is. So Bond kicks the woman into the Thames. The result?
Back at base, Bond’s battered face is all bandaged up, and he allows himself a generous pour of something very alcoholic into a cup while civil servants stare at him, probably in awe and/or fear. Tanner decides that hey, maybe this time out we can skip the belittling bullshit and stick to business, and he shows James a map of Norway where they backtracked Reach’s path. She took private flights, because her prosthetics would have raised red flags at any and all commercial airports. Her last stop before Britain was a little place called “Floro”, which has little going for it. Oh, there is one thing: a decommissioned Norwegian battleship is moored there. Its name? The HNoMS Vargr.
Bond seems to have the need to use the table to lever himself to his feet. We see that M is present as well, and James respectfully requests his boss put him on a military transport to Utvaer, which is, according to Wikipedia, “an island group in Solund Municipality in Vestland county, Norway”. It’s pretty much about as far west you can go in Norway before you hit ocean. M says he’ll have to clear it with the Norwegians and James shoots that idea down, telling the man to just “drop him in”. I’m thinking that after the CIA already burned him by blowing his cover, and with all the connections Kurjac presumably has in Germany to allow him to run his little high-tech horror show, Bond figures some Norwegian muckety-muck is in Kurjac’s back pocket and he’ll warn the man James is coming.
M notes that the case has finally gotten James’ full attention and sarcastically wonders aloud how that might have happened. Maybe James just wants to get as far away from his boss and co-workers as soon as possible, smart-ass. Bond’s response?
Next time: VARGR, the final chapter!