1989: James Bond 007: Licence to Kill

James Bond 007: Licence to Kill (1989) by Mike Grell, Richard Ashford, Chuck Austen, Tom Yeates, Stan Woch et al.

Man! That’s the most 007 cover of a comics album ever. They’re not underselling that it’s an official Bond adaptation, exactly.

If I have my chronology right (and I may very well not have), Mike Grell had published the first issue of his own Bond story, Permission to Die, before this adaptation of the current Bond film was released. That one wasn’t a complete failure, so I had some expectations for this one.

But… it turns out that the only thing Grell did on this was the breakdowns. So he watched the film and then did the layouts, and then left his minions to finish the book?

Nobody involved knows how to draw Timothy Dalton. For a minute I was wondering perhaps whether he wasn’t even cast when they drew the book, so they just had to draw a generic Bond-like person, but, no, this is Dalton’s second book.

While Yeates and Woch are both pretty good action/adventure artists, Grell’s adaptation (whatever he did) is painful to read. Now, I was out with a cold some months back, and I watched a lot of Bond films while feverish, but I do remember this film, and I think that if I hadn’t, I would have been able to guess what’s supposed to be exciting and not. Above Bond jumps from a helicopter and ties a wire around a prop plane’s tail, and that’s a fun scene in the film. Here it’s… nothing. It’s “whaaa…”

I don’t remember the Bond villains’ bon mots being this bad, either, but that might just be the fever talking.

Bond’s face transmogrifies every other panel into some other character, making it hard to follow sometimes.

But for one, glorious panel during this random walk through facial features, one of the artists manages to draw a face that almost resembles Timothy Dalton! What are the chances!

Reading this book is as entertaining as reading the Wikipedia recap of the plot. There’s no tension, no interesting characterisation, no fun, and nothing makes much sense. I think Grell tried to get all the scenes from the movie into this 46 page comic book, and gives us four panels of Hong Kong cops before they’re somehow killed. And the entire book is like that. It’s an annoying read.

And then we get two pages from the British editor Dick Hansom (who, I’m guessing, is the one who managed to trick the people who own the Bond films to give Acme/Eclipse the rights for the comics adaptation) about how great Dalton is.

A reader on Amazon gives it five stars and says:

The only negative I can give is the storytelling. If you’ve seen the film(or read John Gardener’s novelezation), you will understand what’s going on, but if you’re a newcomer, you will not understand anything, as the story jumps around too quickly, leaving very important plot translations and details. It feels more like an artistic review rather than a complete retelling. Overall, though, excellent for fan of Licence to Kill!

Overall, except for the storytelling, it’s excellent. Well said, Amazon reviewer.

I was unable to find anybody else who’d bothered to write about it, and it doesn’t seem to even have been reprinted.

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