For us Brits Action Man is, according to the advert at least, “the greatest hero of them all!”. Originally released in 1966, this tribute to the British armed forces has gone through some changes moving away from his more iconic American cousin G.I. Joe. Now, I am not going to get into an argument of which is better, but I will say where Joe seems to have the edge is context. Action Man’s world was quite nondescript for a number of years, with only war-time enemies to fight. This changed in the 90’s with the re-imaging of AM and the introduction of Doctor X. From there, IDW with their current trend of focusing on toy properties turned him into a comic book.
Action Man is in full on attack mode, infiltrating a Doctor X base, rescuing Ian and looking to stop a doomsday device which could mean the end of the world…..AGAIN! From a setup point of view there is nothing really new here. However as this prologue progresses, things do get a bit of a shake up.
Writer John Barber is something of an IDW mainstay, having worked on Transformers and Back to the Future. As such, he has the experience of working with properties. With that in mind then, the conclusion of the epilogue part of book is quite a surprise and to be honest, a bit of a master stroke that may well divide AM fans. If AM is as good as his Director says, then stories could well get boring. Think about it. AM is a kid friendly version of James Bond. Reading the original Ian Fleming books and viewing the recent Daniel Craig, it’s Bond’s frailties that make the character interesting. Here, to accommodate the same sort of idea, Barber has to take a drastic action. Dialogue wise, it’s easy-going stuff that you would expect, characters filling their expected parts with little nuance. However, I did smile at the “eagle eyes reference”. I wonder how “gripping hands” can be shown in a kid friendly book?
The book features a couple of artists, structured in an epilogue and main story fashion. First up is Chris Evanhuis who, lkie Barber, was spent a lot of time with IDW. Here, his work is very clean and crisp. AM has a sort of structured face that reminds me of the toy, with some of the action panels themselves seeming to show the limitations that kids would have face when playing with the toy. The second part of the book is drawn by Paolo Villanelli, who ironically worked on a Snake Eyes book. Where Evanhuis has clean lines and a simple non affected style, Villanelli is different. It’s grimier somehow with dynamic movements against controlled movements. The inks look heavier and it seems that Villanelli can’t draw a face without a shouting open mouth. Still, these differences match the tone of the story extremely well, with the first part being the epitome of AM being on top of his game and the latter part, not quite so. John-Paul Bove provides the colors across the book and also getting in on the act of showing the difference of the two halves.
As with the other toy line books from IDW, I am not sure of their relevance in today’s gadget focussed kids and the perpetual need to be plugged into something. The lack of consistent context may well be seen as good thing the all those involved as they try to reset the board and give this long loved and lived war-time hero a place in today’s world.
Writing – 3.5 Stars
Art (Chris Evanhuis) – 3.5 Stars
Art (Paulo Villanelli) – 3 Stars
Colors – 3.5 Stars