Itís no secret that I love Indiana Jones. The character is one of my main sources of inspiration and is also one of my favorite characters of all time. I usually geek out when it comes to Indy, so it has most certainly been quite an exciting few months to be an Indy fan. However, when it comes to Indy, I am also very critical. My ridiculously long review of Crystal Skull is a testament to that statement. With that said, I will say that I have never been a huge fan of the Indiana Jones comics. Iíve liked some, but not all of them, and only really loved The Spear of Destiny mini-series. Thus, I put my reviewer hat on over my Indiana Jones fanboy fedora and look at Dark Horseís latest outing in an unbiased and critical manner.
In the '90s, Dark Horse released a number of Indiana Jones mini-series that were hit and miss, overall they were fun but were often caught up in bizarre plots, the overly supernatural, and often strayed from the Indiana Jones formula. For the most part, they were decent, enough to satisfy an Indy craving. Those series are reprinted today in the two volume Indiana Jones Omnibus. But if thereís one place besides the movie theater and television screen that Indy belongs, it is most certainly in comics. This week we see the official return of Indiana Jones to standard comic book format. Yes, the horrendous Crystal Skull adaptation was released, as was the spectacular Indiana Jones Adventures, but both were not the standard 22 page format. But this week, we journey back to 1936 and into the realm of Dr. Henry Walton Jones Jr. as he makes his whip-cracking and adventurous return in Indiana Jones and the Tomb of the Gods.
Thereís something truly special about the way this issue opens up. We really have no idea what the macguffin is and we only see one third of the actual key to open what I can only assume is the Tomb of the Gods. Thus far, the three pieces of the key are the item of desire for all the parties involved. I love the way writer Rob Williams sets up this story. By the end of the issue, we know all the major players as the adventure hits the ground running. Weíve got Indy who makes his way to New York after receiving a letter from a Henrik Mellberg who holds a piece of the aforementioned key. He calls Indy because heís aware of Dr. Jonesí special skills and is hoping Indy can track down all the pieces of the key. Why you ask? Well, as Indy makes his way to Mellbergís office, heís intercepted by Nazis. And we all know that Indy hates those guys. We are also introduced to the lead female character that may or may not be a Nazi. We donít learn her name but we do know sheís after the same key and she takes the piece that Mellberg gives Indy. It will be very interesting to see who this woman turns out to be and whose side sheís really on.
One thing I noticed about Williamsí style of writing is the way he really gets into the story almost immediately. For an Indiana Jones comic to be successful there has to be near perfect pacing and the right adjustment of the Indy formula to make each issue and series enjoyable. Williams takes the classic Indy formula and meshes into todayís common style of condensed storytelling. Williams makes this work by not wasting any time and keeping the story fairly plot driven. Sure, we have our great Indy moments, but they are all meaningful, every scene in this issue somehow advances the plot and covers a lot of ground. At first I wondered how this series was only going to go four issues, but after reading Williamsí style of storytelling, he nails the pacing to really get the reader involved. Weíve got the set up; the central artifact; the mystery behind that artifact; the reasons why Indy is intrigued by the artifact; Nazis; a variable in the form of a beautiful woman; the right balance of humor, action and adventure; globetrotting; and finally, weíve got a classic scene involving Indy and a snake. Williams does indeed hit all the right chords in terms of making this story feel like Indiana Jones and creating enough mystery and adventure to keep things very interesting.
In terms of the characters and dialogue, Williams does an excellent job with them all. Thereís plenty of appropriate humor to go with each character and their dialogue that helps keep this story entertaining. He captures Indy very well, always inquisitive, always ready for a fight and always thinking on his feet. He also does a great job with the main Nazi villain, Dr. Friedrich Von Hassell. Von Hassell is part of Hitlerís Ahnenerbe, the division of the SS devoted to archeology that investigates the superiority of the Aryan Race, as well as the Occult. While Von Hassel is only briefly seen in this issue, he really comes off as a complete sleaze ball. Itís bad enough that heís a Nazi but he stays relatively calm even as Indy makes his escape from his goons early in the issue. Heís not quite the sleaze that Belloq was, but heís got a bit of Donovan in him mixed with some of Belloq. However, I really enjoyed the way that Williams wrote Marcus Brody. He writes the dialogue so on point that I could hear Denholm Elliot in my head as I read it. He also uses Marcusí flaky sense of humor as great comic relief at key moments in the issue, especially the cliffhanger ending. Really good stuff all around from Williams.
Let me be the one to tell you, the artwork in this issue is spectacular. Iím honestly not sure what, if anything, penciller Steve Scott did before this issue but he should certainly have some more big publishers knocking on his door in the future. The artwork in this issue is fairly consistent, refined, detailed and so realistic in terms of anatomy and setting that I canít wait for more. There is some inconsistency, mostly in terms of Indyís face but on first read, youíll hardly notice because the story is moving so fast. Even with a few panels of inconsistency, Scott draws Indiana Jones as if Harrison Ford from Raiders jumped off the screen and into a comic book. Not only does Scott do a great Harrison Ford/Indiana Jones, his Marcus Brody is the spitting image of Denholm Elliot. The action is fantastic, the level of detail in each character is superb and even the skyline of a 1936 New York City is spectacular. The art team assembled for this issue is definitely top notch and captures that old school style of Indiana Jones - that sweaty, gritty sense of adventure brought to life with great visuals. This is some of the best artwork Iím seen on any of the Dark Horse series, truly fitting for Dr. Jones.
Overall, Dr. Jones makes his official return to comics in a big way. This issue was a hell of a lot better than I expected with plenty of mystery and fast-paced action and adventure to keep me salivating for more. This series will no doubt set the tone for the comic book future of Indiana Jones and it has gotten started with a bang. If you are looking for something new to try, give Indiana Jones and the Tomb of the Gods a look, at the very least youíve got a familiar character and you can go from there. I really thought this series got off to a solid start and I hope Williams and company continue to deliver. This is one of my Picks of the Week.
What did you think of this book?
Have your say at the Line of Fire Forum!