By Patrick Ehlers
This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!
James Bond is an agent of the state. His actions seldom need to be motivated beyond “for Queen and Country.” We can infer some other values that the character holds from his choice of career. For example: he believes that violence can (and should) be used to bring about justice. He’s pro sex, but possibly in a way that devalues his relationships with his sexual partners. Issue three of James Bond: The Bond reveals another of Bond’s values — he hates white supremacy.
Or… is that it? The thing that seems to really get Bond going is the hypocrisy inherent in white supremacy. His appetite for sweet, violent, humiliating revenge seems to be fueled less by his desire to stamp out intolerance and more to do with people and organizations neither understanding nor practicing what they preach.
I mean, don’t get me wrong: fuck these nazi shitheads — they’re awful and deserve every bit of punishment writer Ales Kot and artist Rapha Lobosco inflict upon them via 007. But it’s important to note that we don’t actually see them do anything terrible in this issue. Yes, they say racist shit, but their actions are restricted to hanging out in the sauna together. The issue is non-stop restrained homoeroticism — nowhere in this issue does anyone ever wear clothes.
I mean, get a load of that dude in the background just showering in front of his friends. This always-nude setting also allows Lobosco to draw the tattoos these guys have covering their chest, arms and stomachs over and over. It’s a subtle marriage of what these dudes are worshiping: their own racist iconography and each other’s bodies. The Nazis, of course, claim that it’s not gay but instead “is… fraternity.”
This point sticks in Bonds’ head. We know because the first thing he berates the leader about when he reveals himself to be a secret agent is how their homophobia actually reveals their repressed homosexuality or bisexuality. Kot gives Bond five massive speech balloons to make this point. Bond himself has dubbed this “Point One.” Point Two is basically “I’m going to stop these guns from getting into the wrong hands” and Point Three is “your white dream is over.” The last two points could very well be from his mission briefing; they’re bullet points that he can recite in a couple seconds. The hypocrisy of bunch of dudes that clearly like to hang out naked and admire each others bodies while also hating gays is the personal issue for Bond.
Up to this point, 007 has been pretty careful about how he engages these guys. He didn’t start swinging broken vodka bottles until he had the leader and two goons separated from the rest of the herd. But the second that leader throws a little of Bond’s (and MI6’s) own white supremacy back at him, our hero loses his cool. He walks back to the sauna and guns them all down with the battlecry “Good night, white pride.”
Is he just cleaning up the rest of the Nazi garbage? Or is he acting out his own frustration with himself and his country? Is he symbolically murdering the white supremacy in his own life? Kot and Lobosco don’t let us linger on these questions for very long, letting Bond’s righteous fury speak for itself.
The conversation doesn’t stop there. What do you wanna talk about from this issue?
This was a bit of a weird comic in an arc that has been filled with weird issues.
One – I like that this ‘arc’ is a series of one shots. I think one and done comics are underused in today’s ‘write for the trade’ mentality.
Two – This felt and looked a lot like a Garth Ennis / Steve Dillon Punisher comic.
Three – It felt a little empty. The first two in this series, there was some drama on how things would unfold. There was a twist. There wasn’t a twist here and there wasn’t much TO twist. White supremacists are good villains in that it’s easy to want to punch them (or in this case, shoot them), but there’s not a lot of grey area, and again, both the previous issues had that.
This was my least favorite issues in this arc.
I completely missed that Ryan compared issue 1 of this to a Punisher comic also. This definitely has the blunt instrument feel of the Daniel Craig stories. There’s not a lot of ’60s and ’70s Bond whimsy here.
Homophobia as repressed homosexuality occurs some of the time, but I think it is really shitty to treat that as a fact. It ignores the fact that most of the time, the truly awful homophobes just hate gay people. Yeah, you keep hearing stories about homophobes all of a sudden being revealed as gay, and Milo Yiannopolous is unfortunately a thing, but that’s because there is no news story in ‘massive homophobe is straight’.
And it feels weird to use Bond as a character to address white supremacy and homophobia, because of what Bond is. Let’s ignore the fact that in the books, James Bond commits ‘corrective rape’ on a lesbian. James Bond, even to this day, is a character so made up of the worst aspects of Britain and of society at large that I think giving Bond a strong stance on issues… really doesn’t work. He is a rampant misogynist and the living incarnation of Imperialism, and the racism inherent in that. And such a gross representation of such a toxic brand of masculinity, even if he didn’t commit corrective rape, he’s not exactly a character that fits a pre-LGBTQ message.
I think trying to give Bond a stance on anything falls into the problem of the fact that James Bond a truly horrible person. I think Bond works best either by directing challenging his horrible nature, or by treating him as the blunt instrument. An awful thug whose only use is to direct towards even worse people. Merely a weapon for better people to use towards noble goals.
It just feels wrong to use James Bond as a character to condemn white supremacy, when he then goes off to travel the world with a specifically colonialist/imperialist mindset.
Yeah, and I think that’s why Bond goes fucking nuts at the end. I mentioned how he almost seems more personally bothered by the hypocrisy of the nazis hating on the gays, but also hanging out in a sauna and celebrating each other’s bodies. He’s also going to bust them for the arms dealing and for being white supremacist terrorists, but he really only leans into how full of shit they are for saying one thing and doing another. Bond is pretty restrained, fighting just to disarm and debilitate the three dudes that are with him, but then the leader says “Do you really think you’re so much better? Who are you working for? MI5? MI6? Somewhere in between? A free operator? Do you ever know who you’re working for? … Hah. Moral authority my arse.” And then Bond clubs the fuck out of him with the butt of his rifle. (And then he goes on to slaughter the rest of the Nazis in what can only be described as overkill.)
“Against White Supremacy” is a super easy, morally obvious stand to take. So much so that it sorta makes sense to see James Bond — or the hero of any story — take it up. But Bond can’t reconcile the that obvious morality with the truth that he is both the beneficiary and enabler of white supremacy around the world. Which is to say that I think this issue DOES address Bond’s awfulness.
don’t really want to explain the overall intent here but will add this anecdote — those Neo-Nazis are pretty solidly rooted in my actual experiences with them. doesn’t mean they’re *all* like this or that or whatever, but like…lol that sauna behavior is only about one level removed from what I’ve seen!
I certainly don’t want to erase the fact that some Nazis are like that, which is why I mentioned Milo Yiannopolous (he is slightly different as he is openly gay, while being grossly homophobic). Though we all have different experiences with Nazis, and mine are different to yours.
My point is more on what sort of Nazis we choose to highlight. There are lots of takes about Nazis that are true, but we don’t need the New York Times discussing how the Nazi is a family man who lives just like us. Because even though it is true, it is unhelpful compared to more valuable depictions that actually centre the hate (which you certainly did)
I guess my worry with centring homoeroticism is that there is a risk of having toxic masculinity confused with homoeroticim, due to their superficial similarities, despite being two very different things with very different meanings. And that I worry that the centring of homoeroticism acts as an escape route that allows homophobes and neo-fascists an escape route. I find the narrative that the hateful homophobes and Nazis are secretly queer are very convenient fact for straight people, and worry about promoting a narrative that let’s heterosexual people off the hook for homophobia. Let’s them say that heterosexual people aren’t the REAL problem with homophobia, because the REAL bad ones are self hating queer people. Though, of course, this is all rooted in my experiences with Nazis and the like, and yours are different.
By the way, Love Days of Hate, and looking forward to tracking down more of your work
Hey Matt, can’t really do a reply to your last post for some reason so replying this way — thanks for the kind words and yeah, regarding your point…were this the only work where I currently deal with fascism, I’d probably focus more on the overarching parts of it, but yeah, this way — I don’t share your fear at all. I don’t really have control over what people interpret how, but I can be true to what I see around me and assume that people know better than to take a 22-page comic book as an accurate representation of the whole.
I guess my perspective was, I would try and write every series as if the reader was only going to read that series from me. Especially if I was doing a licensed series like Bond. Though of course, I can’t fault your perspective, especially as no one can say that you aren’t making a concerted effort to address fascism throughout your books.
And of course, you can’t control how people will interpret it and some people will always read the wrong thing. But I do hope there is some ability to at least guide the viewer, so that less people get the wrong message. No one should take their advice from a 22 page comic, but the reason topics like representation are so important is because the media landscape, while proven to have no first order effects on our opinions, do have important second order opinions that can shape us, especially when combined with everything else. A little something that can place everything in a bit more context.
Which is why I am so glad that writers like you are intelligently addressing topics like these, even if I think it is handled more strongly in Days of Hate than in this issue. And, of course, the best thing you can do is be true to your experiences, even if they diverge from mine
On a completely different note: This series is pretty unique in modern comics. Different artist every issue, each issue a self-contained story. It’s possible we’ll see them all tied together in the end (that would be pretty cool), but there’s certainly no indication of that. These are all one and done stories. None of them have backstory – other than our knowledge of Bond, these stories are blank slates.
And that’s pretty cool.
Another note: You guys didn’t write about issue 2 – which I thought was the standout so far of this series. I’m not even sure if it didn’t need to be a James Bond story; I think it would have worked as a story with a generic hero. It may have been a far different feeling story with a different hero – Bond went pretty quickly to torture.
Actually, that may be the linking thread throughout these three issues so far: Bond doing terrible, terrible things in the name of ‘good’. A different titular character and these could be very, very different comics.
It’s still weird to see James Bond presented as anti-white supremacy. He’s essentially designed as a walking billboard for the superiority of white (specifically British) masculinity. And, frankly, this is a case where Kot is pretty much on the opposite side of the fence from the core readership of this title, James Bond fans.