Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Marvel's Marvelous Movies #8: For Your Eyes Only (Marvel Super Special #19, June 1981)

For your eyes only, can see me through the night
For your eyes only, I never need to hide
You can see so much in me, so much in me that's new
I never felt until I looked at you 

--Sheena Easton

Bond.  James Bond.  I've read many of Ian Fleming's books, I own Sean Connery's films on Blu-Ray (except the silly Diamonds Are Forever, which has never appealed to me beyond a few moments here or there involving Wint and Kidd) and I even own a 12-inch Connery doll.  He's in a nice black pullover sweater and matching slacks, the way he appeared in Goldfinger, a film many (myself included) consider the series' 1960s apex, although I'm slowly being swayed by the growing From Russia With Love heresy and I get my biggest kick from Thunderball.

Roger Moore was the big screen Bond when I was a kid and teenager, and looking back, I don't remember being as excited about a Bond flick as I was for For Your Eyes Only, which promised to bring James Bond back to earth after his over-the-top space adventure in Moonraker.  It was supposed to mark a return to the series' earlier, glory days when Bond relied on his physicality more than Q's inventions and those of the special effects team.  A more "realistic" Bond. 

Of the two, I still prefer the over-the-top Moonraker.  It was the reason I was so excited about this new Bond, because Moonraker had blown me away when I saw it with my parents one New Year's Eve.  Wow!  Zow!  Moonraker has space!  John Barry!  Shirley Bassey!  Jaws in love!

Script: Larry Hama/Pencils: Howard Chaykin/Inks: Vince Colletta

What does For Your Eyes Only have?  A visual style on par with a particularly well-made episode of Magnum, P.I.  A creepy subplot where an underage ingĂ©nue makes moves on a Bond who appears positively grandfatherly by contrast.  Carole Bouquet, a woman I consider the most glacially lovely Bond girl, but completely lacking in chemistry with Moore.  Their low-energy romance comes across as something both actors have to endure rather than the cheerful hedonism we've come to expect from Bond couplings.  Slapstick fights and chase scenes, the former featuring a hockey team, the latter on skis.  The reliance on so much comedy really undermines the supposed return to realism, especially with Moore's increasingly detached portrayal of the famed super spy as a character content merely to stroll onto the set after his stunt double takes a pounding then offer a quip or a pun.  At this point, Moore seems to have settled on the idea Bond's role is to point out for the audience in as placid a manner as possible the absurdity of all these busy little people putting forth so much effort over some preposterous gadget or other.  And then to get a manicure or a relaxing massage.

But it also has Marvel Super Special #19 (June 1981), written by Larry Hama and penciled by Howard Chaykin.

Script: Larry Hama/Pencils: Howard Chaykin/Inks: Vince Colletta

These two make an ideal team for doing James Bond's more "realistic" escapade chasing after a lost code machine wanted by everyone's favorite Cold War enemies, the Soviets.  Remember them?  They're still around, just under a different name. 

Script: Larry Hama/Pencils: Howard Chaykin/Inks: Vince Colletta

Hama largely eschews the caption-heavy approach of previous film adapters for a tighter focus on action and dialogue.  Hama even includes Moore's little quips, with Chaykin emphasizing most of them with inset close-ups that match Moore's tongue-in-cheek Bond portrayal.  This makes for a fast-paced read that provides some much-needed energy to the familiar Bond schtick.  Chaykin draws some mean fight scenes, too, chopping the action into small vertical panels within pages opening and closing with larger establishing shots and you don't have to worry about spotting a stunt-Bond.  This gives them added verisimilitude.  Chaykin's page designs are top-notch throughout.  Bursts of panels that read fast when Bond leaps into action, then large panels that allow us to savor the ritzy locales and beautiful people.  Roger Moore in particular appears made to become a Chaykin hero, and while the artist doesn't spend a lot of time with the bikini girls in the early going, his Carole Bouquet is worth spending time with as you zip along between the chases and underwater fights. 

If ever I wanted a late period Moore Bond transferred from the big screen to the pages of a comic book magazine-- and I did and still do-- I'd pick Hama and Chaykin to do the honors once again.

Script: Larry Hama/Pencils: Howard Chaykin/Inks: Vince Colletta

Ah, and Vince Colletta.  His inks here are adequate, the comic book equivalent of director John Glen's workmanlike take on the movie's James Bond festivities.  Glen's lack of visual panache means there's nothing distinctive about the look of the films in this Bond era (the films are in focus, they're clearly lit and the camera doesn't jitter all over the place, so there's that), and Colletta similarly gives us some clean lines if little else, and still allows some of Chaykin's distinct eyebrows and facial constructions to bleed through.  Without having seen Chaykin's original pencils, I can't tell if Colletta used his eraser more than he did his brushes this time out, but some of the backgrounds remain featureless voids, and others are rendered minimally.  This in itself isn't a necessarily wrong, because simplicity in art can be a virtue, but with the colorist simply leaving so much of it white-- you know, possibly because there's so much ice and snow due to the ski resort setting-- there's something a little skimpy about the finishes.  So, much like director Glen's bland framing of events and the movie's photography, the inks and colors do the job, if not in an especially memorable way.

After reading this, I think it would have been an entertaining book if Marvel had sprung for the license and had Hama pen a monthly Bond.  As it stands, Marvel would take one more crack at Bond and we'll be taking a look at that one as well.  Of course I bought it despite my disappointment with For Your Eyes Only, because, as you now know, I'm a Bond enthusiast.

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