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Kiss Kiss Bang Bang #4
Writer: Tony Bedard
Artist: Mike Perkins

The title Kiss Kiss Bang Bang refers to James Bond. “Mr. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” was a song on the Thunderball soundtrack and it sums up Bond’s relationship with women pretty nicely.

Problem: They just killed off the Mr. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang of Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.

Yup, top agent Charles Basildon (the latest one to bear the moniker, at least) took two to the chest last month and, for all we can tell, has permanently exited the series (like I’m gonna believe any comic character is dead without an autopsy scene. Well, even then…).

However, the latest issue introduces us to Philippa Westlake; MI6 agent, only daughter of Lord Westlake, and the worst excuse for a human being this series has seen since Basildon’s introduction in the first issue (yes, that’s including the villain).

She readily pops her combat instructor’s knee in the wrong direction during a class demonstration and doesn’t even apologize upon learning that crippling the man effectively ended three ongoing covert ops, costing the firm millions of pounds. When news comes in that Basildon is dead, she goes one step further by chewing out her superiors for making Agent Shelley the next in line for the Basildon post rather than her.

Then, whadda-ya-know, Agent Shelley limps into the MI6 secret facility (in the heart of swinging London, of course) mumbling that she must kill Lord Pilchard, Director of MI6. She brawls with Philippa until she gets a good whack on the head and realizes she doesn’t want to kill Pilchard (stay with me, folks), then raises her gun to her own head. Naturally, Philippa tiredly tells her to go ahead, and only Pilchard’s last second intervention gets the gun away from Shelley long enough for her to be sedated.

The dream sequence that follows says enough for us to be sure that Basildon is dead (heh) and arch fiend Lazarus Bale brainwashed her into turning on her own people. But who’s to say how deep he really got with his mental rape…?

Man, this sure ain’t your father’s James Bond. Last issue, we had to swallow the idea that Lazarus Bale was an Atlantean who’d hibernated under the sea all these millennia. I can buy that. I mean, look at the guy.

Now, we’ve lost our surrogate James Bond. Again, I can go for that. He was asking for it, and not just because he was a complete and total bastard; he was a fool and borderline coward, too.

But now we get Philippa? I can accept that she’s the most dangerous person they’ve got and thus very well suited to the work, but this is going to be a hard character to endear to us after Basildon has already played the part.

There’s something to be said for casting a man in the role of a complete and total bastard. Women can play villains, abrasive characters, you name it. But men have some automatic advantage when it comes to being a heel. There’s some impossible element of charm that worms it’s way through and triggers something in our psychology that finds it acceptable and even humorous for a mean, selfish rat to walk over women and children to save himself. It’s probably some vague sense that justice will be served and he’ll meet a bad end.

With female protagonists, on the other hand, a bad end isn’t usually an option. Oh, sure, a female villain will die in the end, and a saintly character can be martyred, but far too much of our fiction kills off all the men and lets the women off scot free, so we just don’t imagine them getting their just desserts.

This could be an odd couple situation where Shelley and Phillipa team up and some of Shelley’s goodness rubs off on Philippa, but I’m hoping Tony Bedard stays the course and succeeds in creating a lovable complete and total bastard who looks really good in a catsuit.

Like previous issues, the art and story stand up well, but Kiss Kiss Bang Bang has started feeling more Crossgen than James Bond since the introduction of Atlantis. Any attempt to develop the series beyond nostalgia would lead to this, but it’s hard to tell how that affects the story. The women seem to have almost complete equality to the men, the Russians aren’t the active bad guys, not much of anything seems to be taboo… so why’s it set in the sixties? Don’t get me wrong; the look is great and the concept is a lot of fun, but without delving into the setting, the series may inevitably wear thin.

Still, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang has been a fun ride so far and I trust the creative team to keep delivering an enjoyable if somewhat exhausting read. Let’s just hope that taking James Bond out of the book won’t… you know… take James Bond out of the book.


Jason Schachat

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