Writer: John Barber
Artist: Paolo Villanelli
Release Date: 22nd June, 2016
Using a certain product through various mediums can be a tricky thing. That statement could cover a very broad array of scenarios, but today I’m specifically referring to something as eye-roll inducing as adapting an action figure to a comic, the same road that G.I. Joe and the Transformers took decades ago. In fact, the character I’m talking about today originated from a Hasbro toy line, albeit a lesser member of the group. Today, I’m here to talk to you about issue #1 of Action Man, the inaugural puzzle piece leading up to Hasbro and IDW’s “Revolution” event series.
In issue #1 of Action Man, we’re introduced to the man himself. Action Man is the perfect weapon, a master of every craft imaginable, from cooking to killing. While thwarting another world-threatening plan by the nefarious Doctor X, Action Man sacrifices himself to save the world. The mantle is handed down to an unlikely candidate, Ian. A former tech worker, Ian is a much more imperfect human being like the rest of us, the exact opposite of Action Man. As he learns the ways of being the Action Man, Ian also looks to have his vengeance on Doctor X for killing the previous Action Man.
If there’s one thing that I love about this issue, it’s the tone. In fact, the whole first-third of this book totally captures the spirit that I look for in a story like this. The whole plot of a super agent—who is perfect at everything—fighting someone named Doctor X who is bent on destroying the world is something so profoundly cheesy and stupid, but it’s like writer John Barber understands this and uses it to the book’s advantage. The whole book has a very tongue-in-cheek storytelling, being a throwback without being too on-the-nose about it, which makes for a world that I genuinely want to dive into. That fun tone is teamed perfectly with the colorful artwork and designs of Paolo Villanelli and John-Paul Bove, who visualize the story in a way that makes you feel like you’re watching a Saturday morning cartoon.
Not only is the look and atmosphere of the book great, the action set pieces are handled very well. About half of this book, maybe even more than half, is action. All of these big action set pieces are drawn and written in fun and exciting ways that made me feel like a kid again. I was impressed by how effectively they were able to achieve that excitement through the paneling and artwork of the book. But at about the halfway point I said to myself “This action is fun, but I’d like to get into the characters more”. Well, there comes the big problem.
This book’s one big problem, a problem that SEVERELY hurts this issue, is the writing of the characters. First off, I don’t really give a shit about anybody in this. Everyone in the book is just kind of there to fulfill roles in very simple ways, but even the main protagonist is fairly boring. What do I know about Ian? He’s a rebel, I guess? A bad boy? That’s it. That’s not enough for me to want to get into his story and pick up that next issue. He’s just a generic character, just like everyone else in this story. Not only are these characters painfully generic, they are given horrible dialogue to say. In the beginning, the dialogue was kitschy and fun and I was okay with the cheesiness of it because it was fulfilling the storytelling at the time, but that kind of dialogue doesn’t work when we’re trying to build actual characters. The dialogue is bland and the humor is flat as hell, which makes for an extremely boring second half.
It’s a shame because I was having a lot of fun with this book at first, but it just kind of falls apart towards the end. The characters are generic, the dialogue is bad and the whole second half is completely dull. That isn’t to say that there aren’t good qualities here, such as the great artwork and coloring, the great action pieces, and a tone that creates a world that I would love to dive into with better characters. The deciding factor really comes down to the important question: do I want to read the next issue? No, I don’t. I just don’t give enough of a shit about these characters or their story for me to go out of my way to read on. It’s fun for what it is, but I don’t look forward to a whole run of this. It’s a good read on a train ride or something, but other than that you can pass on this book.
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The writer of this piece was: Mike Annerino
Mike Tweets from @MikeAnnerino