Written by Matt Kindt
Art by Wilfred Torres and Nayoung Kim
Lettering by Nate Piekos
Published by Dark Horse Comics
Review by Justin Partridge
‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10
Writer Matt Kindt takes on the very concept of pulp spy fiction in the trippy, highly entertaining Bang! #1. Thomas Cord is a member of MI-X, a British black ops unit tasked with fighting Goldmaze, a SPECTRE-like cult of madmen and terrorists. Cord has been fighting Goldmaze for lifetimes… literally. But after a routine mission gone wrong, Cord is awoken to the “real reality” Goldmaze has been preaching about for years - a reality beyond his The Prisoner and James Bond-inspired “life,” with impossible memories stretching all the way back to the 1950s.
Armed with this smart hook, writer Matt Kindt hits the ground in a dead sprint during this debut, burning through classic, kinetic spy action only to subvert it violently in later pages. Bookended with evocative and well-researched “text pages” from a burned pulp paperback, it’s all in service of this creative team’s loving, darkly funny deconstruction of the “Timeless Secret Agent,” one that calls to mind the weird, heady tone of things like Casanova and Global Frequency. If you like your spy fiction with a little more psychedelia and less archaic gender politics, then Bang! is the mission for you.
Opening with a text page from a classic “Thomas Cord Adventure,” Kindt wastes no time introducing us to his James Bond-ian lead, as super-spy Cord makes a daring escape with a mysterious briefcase said to hold one of Goldmaze’s most devastating weapons. This opening sequence is a very thrilling statement of intent from the creative team - written with a droll self-awareness by Kindt and rendered with a keen cinematic flair by Wilfred Torres and Nayoung Kim, they present a clear tone as well as a healthy dose of irreverence for James Bond’s time-honored tropes. That subversiveness is particularly hammered home by the shocking, grimly hilarious way Kindt and company introduces the series’ title.
From there we meet a new “Thomas Cord” - now a muscular Idris Elba type who is plagued with a strange fatigue, headaches, and a set of memories that would be impossible for a man who is only 30 years old. Here is where Kindt and the art team start to get to the real meat of Bang!, one that is influenced equally by Ian Fleming and Terrence Dicks. Instantly put on the trail of Goldmaze, the new Cord is quickly faced with “the real reality,” one seemingly created at the whim of a long-presumed-dead fiction writer. To get into more would give away Bang!’s best secrets, but I can say that Matt Kindt is clearly having a blast exploding the conventions of spy fiction and twisting them into a new, highly irreverent but loving parody, one that draws strength from the predictability of the format while also tearing it apart.
Artists Wilfredo Torres and Nayoung Kim also do a great deal to make Bang! a singularly entertaining experience. Graced with Torres’ expressive, wonderfully designed character models and Kim’s rich, pop-art-inspired colors, Bang! looks tremendous throughout - in particular, Cord’s “awakening” is a strong sequence, as Torres and Kim dive into his impossible memories, rendering them as slick splash pages. And like Kindt’s researched writing, the pair fully lean into the visual conventions of each era from the 1950s all the way up to the 1980s, with Cord fighting that decade’s main “villain” backdropped with a trippy, but period accurate setting. It’s wild stuff for sure, but it stands nicely next to Kindt’s rich parodic script.
Spy stories aren’t exactly a rarity in creator-owned comics, Bang! stands out from the pack. With reverence to the genre, but at the same time a willingness to poke fun at it Matt Kindt, Wilfred Torres, and Nayoung Kim deliver something truly strange and striking. With both a foot in the past of the genre and an eye toward a more forward-thinking future, Bang! portends a new, irreverent era for spy fiction in comics.