Jimmy’s Bastards Volume 1: Trigger Warning trade paperback
Writer: Garth Ennis
Artist: Russ Braun
Colors: John Kalisz & Guy Major
Letters: Rob Steen
Cover artist: Dave Johnson
Editor: Mike Marts
Publisher: AfterShock Comics
Price: $14.99 US
I have a confession to make: despite my overall appreciation of genre fiction, I have never been a fan of the James Bond films. Not a single one. It’s not the espionage genre that puts me off, per se, but something about the Bond character and concept itself. With Jimmy’s Bastards, writer Garth Ennis plays around with the conventions and clichés of Bond, and his spotlighting of the foibles and flaws of that classic character made for a particularly receptive reader in me.
Since this is an Ennis story, to describe it as being over-the-top would be a massive understatement. Do you find the Kingsman movies too understated? Then Jimmy’s Bastards is probably what you’ve been waiting for. Ennis explores the 21st century culture of offence and sensitivity through the lens of an archetype that represents white privilege and chauvinism. He tears down both sides as he is wont to do. The result is something that makes a Bill Maher diatribe seem mild and politically correct. As such, Jimmy’s Bastards isn’t for everyone, but there is some interesting commentary to be found amid the excesses here.
Jimmy Regent has been MI6’s top agent for decades, never failing in his missions to protect Queen and country. He executes his job (and often, enemy threats) with seeming ease, never sweating or fretting despite the constant peril in which he finds himself. Regent loves his job, but mainly for the perks — most of which involve an unending supply of champagne and loose women. However, with a new partner by his side determined not to succumb to his sexual wiles, Regent will face the greatest test of his long career, unaware that the new threat is one in which he had a hand in creating.
Russ Braun’s artwork works quite well with the extreme leanings of Garth Ennis’s writing. His style is reminiscent of that of previous Ennis collaborators. Braun’s depiction of Jimmy Regent evokes an easy comparison to the art of the late Steve Dillon, with whom Ennis created the landmark Preacher series. It also reminds me of the style of Chris Weston, and there are times when his work looks just like it could have been crafted by Darick Robertson, Ennis’s creative partner on The Boys. However, I was also frequently reminded of the work of noted super-hero artist Jerry Ordway, especially in the faces of several characters and how Braun handles anatomy and movement of the figures. Overall, I quite enjoyed his work and the level of detail he brings to the project.
Jimmy Regent is a cad, of that there is no doubt. However, what’s interesting about his character is that he’s no fool. His physical and martial prowess are also matched by his intellect. He seems to be fully self-aware, embracing his hedonism and proving to be adept at defending it. When someone proves resistant to his charms or defiant of his will, he doesn’t take it personally. He accepts whatever developments come his way and addresses them directly. Regent isn’t necessarily a likeable character, but he is interesting and oddly admirable at times. Conversely, Ennis doesn’t do enough to develop the character of Nancy McEwan. She is definitely Regent’s equal when it comes to her role as a super spy, but her greatest preoccupation is her defensive stance about what Regent represents. Ironically, her determination not to allow Regent to define her ends up defining her for most of the story.
This collected edition’s greatest flaw is that it doesn’t collect a complete story. The plot ends on a cliffhanger, albeit a pivotal one. The very title of this book/series suggests there’s a single story being told here, and that begs the question: why not collect it all in one volume? I realize that arcs of five or six issues tend to be the norm for these trade-paperback editions in the comic industry, but that approach doesn’t seem like the wisest one for this particular title.
While the concept of the group of antagonists from which this book derives its title is pretty extreme and twisted, it’s far from being as bombastic and colorful as the throwaway villains we meet in the opening pages of the first chapter. The result is that the conspiracy against Jimmy Regent actually ends up coming off as a little tamer and even more plausible despite its inherent, over-the-top qualities. At first, I was a little disappointed the main antagonists weren’t as surreal as Theophilus Trigger and Bobo, the Bastard Chimp Clown (no doubt so named so as to mislead the reader about the title of the book and series). But after finishing the book, I wonder if Ennis didn’t purposefully include those oddball villains as a means to grant the real threat a greater degree of credibility. I have to admit, if that was the case, it worked pretty well. 7/10