'BANG!' #1 Review: A light, engaging opener that adds meta concepts to classic brainwashed spy thriller tropes
Spoiler alert for 'BANG!' #1
Whenever you see a comic book open with a page from a novel, it's a safe bet that the comic is going to examine literary tropes from a more meta-perspective. With Matt Kindt writing, the meta is almost a certainty. But 'BANG!' goes beyond just the question of 'What if a fictional character realizes they're in a story?' and straight into 'Can you get the leads of different fictional genres to team up?' Throw in a little brainwashing, and poor protagonist Thomas Cord is going to have one hell of a time figuring out what's real, and what isn't - especially when he comes face to face with the man who writes him.
The first issue doesn't present anything that wasn't already teased in the trailer. What it achieves instead is establishing the light, breezy tone that seems like it will define the series going forward. It's got everything you love about spy thrillers - debonair agents, gadgets, scandalously clad femme fatales, secret organizations, and fast-paced action - but little of the seriousness that comes with. It's a comic book that has fun with the concept - Wilfredo Torres art is bright, and cheerful, even in the darker scenes. 'BANG!' embraces its silliness, but promises some mind-bending meta-questions in the issues ahead.
The protagonist - at least, of the first issue - appears to be a spy named Thomas Cord, or at least one of many. The most current Thomas Cord has the memories of all the Cords who came before him - not unlike a James Bond who remembers the adventures of every movie he's ever been in, despite being played by multiple actors and taking place over several decades. He's up against a secret organization known as Goldmaze.
Goldmaze is interesting, as shadowy organizations go. They figured out that they're fiction ages ago, and are now seeking a way out, to the "true reality" - and outside of the golden maze of fiction they find themselves in. A closer look at the Goldmaze logo reveals an interesting clue - there's no clear way in, or out of the maze unless you break the Fourth Wall from above.
Thomas Cord has been sent to find a man who knows more about Goldmaze than any civilian ought to, but on his way to recover this man, Cord is dosed with drugs that help him realize that there are some serious inconsistencies in his memories. Philip Verve is putting some plans into motion - and is apparently assembling a team of fictional action-thriller lead characters from multiple dimensions.
The art here is clean, easy to follow the action and some excellent body language doing good storytelling work. The current Thomas Cord doesn't say much, but you can see that he's a serious man focused on getting the job done. The clean art gives way to some more dizzying 60s visuals, as Thomas Cord starts remembering his past, with Nayoung Kim's colors doing a lot to set the mood.
'BANG!' #1 sets up a lot of questions and knowing Matt Kindt, is only really going to come into its own as a concept a few more issues into its run. In the meanwhile, however, it has lively spy action that is a fun, engaging read.
'BANG!' #1 is written by Matt Kindt, with art by Wilfredo Torres and colors by Nayoung Kim, and lettering by Nate Piekos. It is available wherever comic books are sold.