Action Man # 1
Writer: John Barber
Artist: Paolo Villanelli
Prologue Art: Chris Evenhuis
Colors: John-Paul Bove
Letters: Neil Uyetake
Prologue Letters: Shawn Lee
Reviewed by David Hildebrand
Just in case you are in the dark as I was, let me tell you a little bit about Action Man. Created in Britain in the year 1966. He is the licensed copy of America’s GI Joe. There were three different soldiers, Action Soldier, Action Pilot, and Action Sailor, dressed in the fatigues that represented the US Forces from World War II and the Korean War.
Fast-forward to 1996, the first appearance of Action Man in the comics. The series ran for an impressive 138 issues from 1996 to 2006, where he would fight the evil Dr X and the Council of Doom. There is even a DVD titled Action Man: X Missions- The Movie. Now that you have had your history lesson kids, let’s move on to 2016 and see where Action Man is at today!
Action Man is dead! This is the first issue, you say? How the hell did this happen already? Let me break that down for you. My first impression of Action Man is not the copy of GI Joe. He is a slight rip off of James Bond. The story is really basic and by the book. Action Man infiltrates an enemy’s base in effort to stop certain death to the world. We begin with an agent meeting with the Prime Minister of England. The agent explains that Doctor X is trying to destroy the whole world, he has triggered a Doomsday Device. The Prime Minister inquires about the squad that is being sent to stop this attack on humanity. Squad??? We have Action Man! And there he is! Kicking open doors, shooting everyone in his path, even adding in tongue in cheek dialogue such as he bursts into a room spraying gunfire.
He does have one side mission to do as well, collect a colleague named Ian. Action Man rescues Ian and sets focus on the Doomsday Device. The pair encounter a spaceship that isn’t stable, it is ready to explode, here is your Doomsday Device. Without giving it a thought, Action Man makes the ultimate sacrifice and enters the rocket telling Ian that it is a good way to go out and he is happy. And with that, Action Man rockets into the sky, explodes, and saves the world from certain destruction. Yes, Action Man is dead…….
I’m pretty sure you can guess where this is going just as I did. Ian is the new Action Man. Complete with the moves, the firepower, and the cheesy one liners that would not make a certain agent with a License to Kill smile. His fellow agents do not like him and jealous that Ian has been chosen to be the next Action Man. They don’t have as much faith in him as they should. We really don’t get much into his training or his background. The characters are a bit bland and one-dimensional. I am willing to forgive and overlook this, since it is the first issue. The main focus for Ian is that he wants Dr X dead! He wants revenge for the death of Action Man. However, he is still fairly inexperienced as you follow him in a mission where he has to get a dirty bomb off of a train. He has a long way to go as far as discipline and living up the previous Action Man.
Barber writes a pretty simple story. The characters lack depth. The dialogue is cheesy, but does have its moments. The train scene with Ian attempting to stop the detonation of a dirty bomb comes across like an opening sequence in a James Bond movie. That is another thing that bothered me though. Action Man isn’t standing on his own two feet just yet, I kept getting flashbacks of 007! With that said, it does have moments where it is fun to read. The art of Villanelli and Evenhuis makes the book stand out. I felt like I was reading a Saturday morning cartoon. The art is bright, vivid and brings a great deal of life that is much needed in the book.
On the fence???? Is that even a verdict? I still can’t figure out if the story is meant to be cheesy on purpose or if this is seriously how the story is going to be in future issues. I don’t dislike the book, but I also can’t say go out and purchase it. If you like spy or action stories, then give this a look. If you are looking to read a story with great depth, then you might want to pass on this at the moment. I say at the moment, because I am really hoping that the next issue goes more in depth to the characters. They do come across as interesting. Right now they are just pawns on the playing field.