Editor's Note: Kevin Powers and Ray Tate have provided a mini-slugfest for the first volume of Dark Horse Comics'Indiana Jones Adventures. However, given the nature of their reviews, perhaps this is more of a lovefest.
Itís been a little over a month since Dr. Henry Jones Jr. made his return to the big screen. Itís been a few months since collectibles bearing his name were released, two months since the action figures were released, and (whether you loved or hated the new film) one thing is certain: Indiana Jones is back. Indiana Jones fans are rabid right now. We want more Indy, and we donít care if itís in the form of kidís books or not--just give us some action, adventure, and Dr. Jones!
I love Indiana Jones, this is no secret, and I am completely enthralled with Indiana Jones merchandise and memorabilia. Being born in the mid-80s and growing up through the 90s, it was always difficult to find Indiana Jones merchandise. I guess I can say Iím making up for lost time.
However, Indy is also making his way back to comics. Dark Horse and Lucas Books are preparing to bring Indy back monthly--hopefully for the long haul--and I could not be happier. Indiana Jones and the Tomb of the Gods, Dark Horseís first Indiana Jones series in over 10 years, hits the stands this week, but last week saw Indyís return to comics in an all-ages adventure.
Indiana Jones Adventures Vol. 1 follows in the tradition of the successful and fun Star Wars digest-sized comics that are quite perfect for every age. Writer Philip Gelatt is actually making his comics debut with this story, and I commend him for taking on such a formidable task.
Basically, this is a very simple story. The storytelling style is geared towards kids, so there is nothing overly complicated going on. The violence is more tame, and it actually feels that if there were to be an Indiana Jones animated series, this could be an episode. However, thatís not to say that Gelatt writes a crappy story that will sell because Indyís name is on it.
Gelatt actually writes a pretty damn good story here that amazingly, in such a short span of pages, has all the elements of Indiana Jones. Weíve got the macguffin, the girl, the chase scene, the Nazis, globe-trotting, Indiana Jones in disguise, plenty of punches that you can add the sound effects to, a display of the macguffinís power, and, of course, Indy going home empty-handed. Itís all there, itís all fun, exciting, fast-paced and a very fun read if you are looking for something like that no matter how old you are.
Okay, so whatís the macguffin? Well, it revolves around an old Viking legend where some kind of recipe contained inside a scroll includes a formula for creating super-soldiersóor, as the Vikings called them, ďOdinís Men.Ē Okay, so no, itís not the first time weíve seen Nazis wanting to create super-soldiers, but it works in the same way.
Except, the Viking formula transforms those who consume it into Berserkers. Hell, this story could be called ďIndiana Jones and the Super-Soldier Serum.Ē The beauty of this story is that while the Nazis are after the scroll for the recipe, Indy is after the scroll because a failed expedition that cost the museum a lot of money would leave him and Marcus going home empty-handed.
So Indy goes out to look one more time, meets a female British archeologist, and they both find evidence of the scrollís existence. The British woman is also the classic double-crossing beauty. She represents Indyís ďfriendly-competitionĒ when it comes to the quest for the scroll and a gold ring that they find. Itís a really fun story with lots of action and lots of adventure. The ending is kind of ridiculous, but I had a lot of fun reading the story so I couldnít care less.
Now, this story takes place in 1930, so the true horrors of the Nazis havenít yet been realized. However, Indy already doesnít like them because they are fascist animals. In fact, Gelatt makes an interesting historical point by having the British woman not know who the Nazis are. Yet, by having this story take place in 1930 (as a prequel to the films) opens the doors for something great.
The main villain of this story is not the British woman nor the German General Krause, no, the true villain of this story is Rene Belloq--the French archaeologist who takes credit for Indyís work in Raiders of the Lost Ark. Belloq is easily one of the greatest villains of all time--a man who would sell his soul to the devil if there was a profit to be made.
Gelatt writes Belloq as a total scumbag, money hungry and using archeology as a business. Thereís no moral question to his motivations, and heíll aide the German war machine so long as they leave him alone and pay him for it.
For parents wondering about the appropriateness of this book, there are no exploding heads, melting faces, hearts being ripped out or anything of that Indiana Jones nature. Thereís one death, of an enraged Berserker, that isnít even seen. Additionally, there are a few fight scenes that are done in an Indiana Jones style. Itís a fun read. If your kids like Indiana Jones, you might want to pick this up for them for a rainy summer day, for sleep-away camp, or for a budding collection.
The artwork is phenomenal. Ethan Beavers has a very distinct cartoon style that has brought him great success on the Star Wars: Clone Wars Adventures, and it should also bring him great reception here. I really enjoy his work, and it can easily be enjoyed by anyone. Itís clear, consistent and (even in the cartoon style) it feels like Indiana Jones.
There are moments when Indy does have some shades of Harrison Ford, and Beaversí depiction of Belloq looks amazingly just like Paul Freeman. Thereís some great stuff here that really adds to the quality and value of this book.
This book has all the elements of Indiana Jones neatly packed into it--familiar characters, lots of action, and plenty of adventure. Not bad for Gelattís first outing.
What would the comic book world be like without Batman: The Animated Series? It would be worse. Batman: The Animated Series inspired the creation of numerous related comic book titles distinguished by the term "Adventures." This publishing phenomena acted as a watershed.
"Adventures" has become synonymous with "all-ages," and it often signifies a certain streamlined style of art similar to that popularized by Batman: The Animated Series and Justice League,which was the last descendent from that gem of an idea.
Books flying under the "Adventures" banner tend to be better than the so-called continuity books. They normally offer the reader stand-alone stories lacking all-consuming angst and so-called adult themes. The writers tend to concentrate more on characterization, character interaction, dialogue, and plotting rather than endless padding that benefits a Big Stupid Event of the month or sleaze to shock the media into giving comic book companies coverage.
Indiana Jones Adventures lives up to the quality expected from an "Adventures" titleóand, really, what better character to use the word? The story is set before the events of Raiders of the Lost Ark, and we join Indy and his old friend Marcus Brody in Uppsala, Sweden for a foray into Norse legends.
Philip Gelatt does his research and creates a rich excursion. He brings in such basic elements as the Nine Worlds of Norse Mythology as well as some obscurities--Odin's Men, for example. Against this backdrop he employs an underlying global rivalry between friendly powers that I don't believe I've seen before.
Gelatt must have spent many hours reviewing the Indiana Jones movies because his dialogue tricked me into hearing Harrison Ford's voice, and this is no small feat because, even though he captures the basic look of Indiana Jones in the panels, Ethen Beavers does not opt for a cartoon caricature of Mr. Ford. Perhaps, Dark Horse didn't get the licensing to use Harrison Ford's likeness for this project.
The depiction by Beavers is what Indiana might have looked like had Harrison Ford not imprinted his face to the character. Make no mistake, there never will be another Indiana Jones than Harrison Ford. Shia LaBeof may play the next in line for the legacy, but no other actor can be The Indiana Jones.
Beavers creates a world that one expects to find Indiana Jones exploring, and Ronda Pattison chooses her colors masterfully to strengthen Beavers' designs. The Indiana Jones films simply wouldn't be as memorable if they were in black and white. No matter how dark the cave, color was always an important factor in presenting the textures of the environments.
The artwork in Indiana Jones Adventures helps create the illusion that this figure who does not look like Harrison Ford is nevertheless Indiana Jones. He has to be because this is his world. Any doubts you may have had dispel when the Nazis show up. At one point, Indiana categorizes them nicely: "Anti-Semite. Anti-Communist. Anti-Liberal. They feed on hate and fear. They even hate the gypsies."
At the point the story is set, the term Nazi as a shorthand form for the Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei wasn't in wide use. That party began to grow like a cancer during Germanyís Weimar Republic years from 1919-33. The Nazis adopted their more familiar name circa 1933, but a globe-trotter like Indiana just might have caught wind of the shorthand term seeping into popular culture. He certainly would be aware of the Nazis' aberrant criminal behavior, which was evident even before the horrors of such events as Kristalnacht.
Indiana Jones Adventures is an all-ages book. Some parents may wonder if such historical education is necessary for their son or daughter. I think Gelatt is about as tasteful as one can be about the subject. Bottom line: Everybody should know who the Nazis were because there are a bunch of nuts out there trying to deny their crimes and re-create the movement.
Nobody should forget the kind of evolutionary throwback humanity is capable of producing. I find Indiana Jones Adventures wonderfully educational in that respect.
The Nazis are portrayed in the book as insidious, immoral, and abusive. They come in many forms: spies who do not wear the Swastika, soldiers that do, and the Hitler Youth Corps--the stupidest species of Nazi. A member of the latter takes the spotlight in a scene that should remind kids to never volunteer for anything.
Using a fertile field, Gelatt crafts a meticulously designed action story that carries Indy around the world and pits him against familiar (and sometimes surprising) foes. The conclusion of the story depends upon clever sleight of hand that's elegantly executed by Beavers. This flourish is in keeping with the spirit and chicanery seen in Raiders of the Lost Ark.
Some wary comic book buyers may balk at the six-ninety-five price tag that accompanies Indiana Jones Adventures, but the book's manufacture explains the cost. It's slightly taller than manga, square-bound, and clocks in at about seventy-six pages. The high-quality paper vividly reproduces the art and the story.
Indiana Jones Adventures should be on every fan's shelf.
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