Saturday, August 12, 2017


Before Brian Michael Bendis started writing almost every title published by Marvel Comics, he turned out a two issue mini-series entitled FIRE. The material was revised and updated by Bendis for publication by ICON (a Marvel imprint) as a hardcover graphic novel in 2014.

FIRE deals with a disaffected college student, Ben, who is recruited by the C.I.A. for their clandestine operation Project: Fire. The goal is to create disposable agents, men and women with no family or friends, for the spy organization. These agents are trained and put into the field where they execute various assignments until they're no longer useful. When that happens, they are killed.

Ben is seduced by an attractive fellow agent and at first envisions himself as a junior grade James Bond in training. But he soon discovers the sheer boredom of spy work, the tedious waiting, the long periods of inactivity punctuated by sudden moments of extreme danger. When he decides he's had enough and decides to leave, he discovers that the agency is not about to let that happen. They own him body and soul.

Set in the 1980s with the Reagan administration and various international crises as background, FIRE is full to bursting with Bendis's endless dialogue. He's the Quentin Tarrantino of comic books with characters spouting page after page of dialogue with little or no action. It's not altogether bad as Bendis has a good ear but it does tend to get tiresome. Bendis also illustrated the story and his art is weak, with far too much black in some scenes making it impossible to tell exactly what's going on. In the end notes, Bendis states that he went back and tweaked and polished the art for publication in this hardcover volume. If this art is "improved", I'd sure hate to see the original. Oh, and who knew that Candice Bergen was a C.I.A. agent? Bendis relies heavily on the actresses' likeness for the main villain of the piece. None of the other characters appear to be based on real people so seeing Bergen among anonymous faces is a bit distracting and distancing.

As an early effort by a creator just beginning to stretch his narrative muscles, FIRE is not entirely bad, nor entirely good. There are more rough spots than smooth but Bendis demonstrates his unique style of story-telling that led him to be top dog at Marvel for a number of years.

No comments:

Post a Comment