Current Reviews


Indiana Jones Omnibus Vol. 1

Posted: Saturday, February 16, 2008
By: Kevin Powers

Messener-Loebs, Barry, Richardson, et al.
Dan Barry, Dan Spiegle and Leo Duranona
Dark Horse Comics
The excitement is starting to build as Dr. Henry Jones Jr. is preparing to make his long awaited return to the big screen. The trailer debuted earlier in the week and while it didn't say much, my immediate reaction was "they don't make movies like this anymore." It was pure and classic Indiana Jones: adventure, danger, humor and of course the supernatural. If you don't read the news here at Comics Bulletin, I should make it clear that I am a mega-fanboy of Indiana Jones. Sure, I'm a comic geek. I'm critical of comics. I collect and read comics, and I want to write comics. However, it is only when it comes to Indiana Jones that I go complete fanboy. When I was in 7th grade I wrote and starred in a 15 minute stage skit as Indiana Jones. Raiders of the Lost Ark is one of the best movies ever made, and Indy is one of those movies so culturally important that many have tried to imitate. Like many great movie icons Indy has made the transition to comics on a few occasions. First Marvel Comics produced a 34 issue series entitled The Further Adventures of Indiana Jones, and later when George Lucas took his properties to Dark Horse, a number of mini-series were released chronicling other adventures of "the obtainer of rare antiquities." The Indiana Jones Omnibus Volume 1 collects three of these adventures.

Now before I get into the actual Omnibus, it should be noted that there is a lot of Indiana Jones media outside of the three films and Dark Horse comic series. There are of course, the Young Indiana Jones Chronicles TV series, the video game adventures and the Young Indiana Jones books. In terms of Indiana Jones continuity outside of the movie, the Dark Horse series, the Young Indiana Jones books and TV series, the video games Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis, Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine and Indiana Jones and the Emperor's Tomb are all considered canon. With the new film and the, no doubt, revitalization of the franchise, I'm sure the canon will be adjusted. It will also be interesting to see if the film makes any reference to any of the noteworthy and popular adventures such as Fate of Atlantis.

The first adventure in the Omnibus is the comic version of Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis, which is one of my favorite PC games of all time. It is one of the classic LucasArts "pick an action and click an object" games. Fate of Atlantis had an excellent and compelling plot, one worthy of Indiana Jones and even at one point garnered enough support that fans wanted to see it as the next film after Last Crusade. This story takes place in 1939, after Last Crusade. The game also introduced a character who would become integral to Indy in his adventures both before Raiders and after Crusade. The character was psychic, archeologist and former love interest of Indy, Dr. Sophia Hapgood.

The actual comic version of Atlantis has the same basic plot and characters as the game, but there are some major differences. The comic version is a bit darker, more fast-paced and doesn't get caught up in the elaborate puzzles that the games usually entail. What works very well in the game version, that also translated very well into the comic, was the relationship between Sophie and Indy. It's a different relationship than Indy and Marion because Indy was still in love with Marion in Raiders. Sophie and Indy were students together; it's unclear if it was before or after Indy's work with Marion's father, but the major difference between Sophie and Indy is their belief structure. Indy has always been practical. He doesn't believe in "hocus pocus," while Sophie is more in tune with the supernatural. This relationship and the search for Atlantis is a major highlight of this story and the writers, William Messmer-Loebs, Dan Barry and Mike Richardson really play it up and bring an equal balance to the practical and supernatural nature of the search for Atlantis.

Like the game, Atlantis captures the classic globe-trotting and action-adventure that one would come to expect from Indiana Jones. I personally prefer the game version of the story, but I think it's mostly because it gives you a more interactive sense of adventure. The comic adaptation also plays off of the same myth as the game, that Atlantis, located in the Mediterranean and not the Atlantic, was comprised of a race of supernatural and even extraterrestrial beings that rivaled the gods. The three main searchers for the lost city, Indiana, Sophie and the Nazis each have their own dreams and wishes for what is to come of the power of Atlantis. Indy, as always, wants his "fortune and glory," Sophie seeks answers and psychic meaning behind the Atlantean god she channels, Nur-Ab-Sal, and the Nazis want the technology of Atlantis to build weapons. Of course, the Nazis fall into delusions of grandeur when the main Atlantean device is discovered to be a "god-making machine." The parallel between the downfall of Atlantis and the downfall of the Nazi searchers is really well done.

While the artwork of Dan Barry is a little bit cartoonish, it definitely suits the feeling of Indiana Jones. Barry did an excellent job capturing the action and adventure aspect of Indy as well as the supernatural. The representations of Atlantis were extremely well done and remain consistent throughout the book.

The second adventure featured in this omnibus is Indiana Jones and The Thunder in the Orient. Written and penciled by Dan Barry, with the last issue penciled by Dan Spiegle, Thunder in the Orient is the longest and most elaborate tale of the three in this collection. There's a hell of a lot going on in this series, but it's fairly easy to follow and the political connotations are very well documented. While it's not stated when this story takes place, based on the appearance of Sophie and the Imperial Japanese it's safe to say this story takes place shortly after Atlantis. This story focuses on the Asian nations and the different rival sects of Buddhism. Sophie calls Indy to Nepal where she has discovered proof that the words of Buddha were written down as they were spoken. Like many holy books, the Bhavigad Gita was passed down through word of mouth before it was recorded. The "rare antiquity" that is featured in this story is the "covenant," a document featuring the Buddha's exact words with the power to unite the sects of Buddhism. What is most interesting about this story is that there's less of the supernatural and much more of the political when it comes to the importance of such an artifact. The different sects involved all what to rule Asia, but every one of them has foul intentions.

The biggest problem with this story is the sheer amount of "stuff" going on. The action is great, the politics are rather easy to follow and even the "barbarism" of the nomadic Muslims in Afghanistan is well done, but there are so many characters to follow. Indy has a sidekick very similar to Short Round in this story, and the relationship dynamic between Indy and Sophie isn't as strong as it is in Atlantis. However, while there is a lot happening in this story, it does kind of play off of the importance of the "covenant." There is so much going on that it's almost chaotic, and that chaotic nature represents exactly what the covenant stands for, unification from chaos. Like Temple of Doom, Thunder in the Orient is more action-packed than it is focused on the adventure aspects of Indiana Jones. And if it is action you are looking for, there's no shortage of it here, especially in this story.

The artwork by Dan Barry is once more well done and he does a great job keeping everything clear in the amount of story he scripted. However, Dan Spiegle's artwork in the last issue of this story is probably my favorite and the most "Indiana Jones-like" of the book. It's edgier, rugged and has a more "realistic" and old-school type artwork that is very well suited to Indiana Jones.

The final story featured in the Omnibus is Indiana Jones and the Arms of Gold by Lee Marrs. This story is more of a "solo" Indiana Jones adventure focusing on the search for the legendary Incan "arms of gold." The legend is that the arms possessed the power to reshape structures and stones, i.e. create the Incan temples. This is most definitely a different kind of Indiana Jones story because there is no real antagonist in the form of Nazis or a person like Mola Ram. There is a main villain, but his involvement is not on the levels of Mola Ram, Belloq or Donovan. The villain of this story is similar to Belloq but much more of an afterthought to the rest of the story. Instead, this is much more of a homage to the spirit of the franchise. There's a specific love interest, who of course is an old friend, and Indiana Jones is in his "true" mercenary mode. He is willing to do her a favor knowing that finding the "arms of gold" would lead to his fortune and glory.

This is much more of a love story than anything else and that love story is its own adventure that runs parallel to the actual quest for the arms of gold. The danger that Indy and his love interest encounter is similar to the Christian Brotherhood from Last Crusade in that they are protectors and even seekers of the arms of gold themselves. There's also some homages to Temple of Doom in that Indy is forced to go through some of the rituals of the Incas. This story is definitely perfect for someone looking for a well-crafted adventure story.

The artwork by Leo Duranona is decent, but a bit inconsistent. He goes for the "rugged" Indiana Jones look, but the inconsistencies in the art from page to page is a bit noticeable. He does do a great job with the action and adventure side of things however and ultimately brings the feel of Indiana Jones to the story.

This Omnibus is a great way to kick-off looking into further adventures of Indiana Jones. The three stories contained are very different from one another, but all manage to capture the feeling of Indiana Jones. There's a lot of action, adventure, humor and legend employed in this book, and for any action-adventure fan, Indiana Jones fan or anyone looking for a fun read, I would definitely recommend this Omnibus. Indiana Jones definitely has a place in comic books, and the Dark Horse series are definitely a good place to start.

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