Indiana Jones Omnibus: The Further Adventures - Volume 1
(Art by John Buscema, Klaus Janson, John Byrne, Terry Austin, Gene Day, Richard Howell, Mel Candido, Danny Bulanadi, Ron Frenz, Kerry Gammill, Sam de la Rosa, Dan Reed and Luke McDonnell)
A collection of stories originally published by Marvel Comics in the immediate aftermath of the release of 'Raiders of the Lost Ark' in cinemas. This book begins with an adaption of 'Raiders...' itself and then explores Indy's adventures after the credits roll. It's safe to say that 1936 proves to be a busy year for the all-action archaeologist as, after finding the Ark of the Covenant, his adventures lead him to discover, amongst other things, the Elixir of Life, the key to an interdimensional portal above Stonehenge, Atlantean exiles, the Chachapoyan idol (the golden statue at the beginning of 'Raiders...') and the Fourth Nail.
This book is very much a product of its time and those looking for hyper-realistic art or naturalistic dialogue are going to be very disappointed, but I grew up reading the comics of the 70s and 80s, so this is something that has never bothered me. Don't get me wrong, the ludicrously over-dramatic dialogue and its abundance of exposition does detract from the quality of the stories but that's just the way comics were back then.
I really enjoyed the adaption of 'Raiders...' which stayed faithful to the near-perfect film but also gave a few tidbits which didn't make the final cut. The most surprising of these is where Marion is describing how she came to own the bar in Nepal and she says "So I started working here. And I wasn't tending bar". Am I reading too much into it, or is that Marion admitting to turning tricks before she was given the bar?
This book is at its best when it's linking into Indy's first big-screen adventure, be it his continuing on-off relationshop with Miss Ravenwood, matching wits with Toht's sister (Toht was the Nazi with the scarred palm) or finally recovering the golden idol that Belloq stole from him after the iconic boulder chase scene.
Overall this is an enjoyable collection of the sort of pulp adventure stories which were the original inspiration for Indiana Jones in the first place.
4 out of 5
Indiana Jones: The Further Adventures - Volume 2
featuring David Michelinie, Larry Lieber, James Owsley and Herb Trimpe
(Art by Ricardo Villamonte, Sam de la Rosa, David Mazzucchelli, the Saint, Herb Trimpe, Vince Colletta, Danny Bulanadi, Ernie Chan, Larry Lieber, Jack Abel, Luke McDonnell, Steve Ditko, Bob Wiacek, Steve Leialoha, Al Milgrom, Carl Potts, Norton, Joe Brozowski, Mel Candido, Jackson Guice, Ian Akin and Brian Garvey)
Continuing the escapades of the adventuring archaeologist in the wake of 'Raiders of the Lost Ark'. This book sees Indy go toe to toe with rival treasure hunters, pirates, crooks and the Japanese military, as well as confronting the Thuggee cult in the adaption of '...Temple of Doom'.
If you've read the previous volume, you'll know what to expect; a whole host of pulp adventures that homage the old derring-do tales which inspired George Lucas and Steven Spielberg in the first place. Here Indy gets in a lot of globetrotting as his adventures take him to such diverse locations as Cuba, Crete, the Himalayas, Japan, India and, in a bizarre turn of events, Merthyr Tydfil in South Wales. There's lovely.
Unsurprisingly, this book's highlight is the spot-on adaption of the second Indiana Jones movie but I also enjoyed such things as Indy teaming up with Captain Katanga once more, watching Marcus Brody in action for once and getting to see Marion prove time and time again why she's such a fierce and apt match for Doctor Jones himself.
4 out of 5
Indiana Jones Omnibus: Volume 1
featuring Hal Barwood, Noah Falstein, William Messner-Loebs, Dan Barry, Mike Richardson and Lee Marrs
(Art by Dan Barry, Karl Kesel, Dan Spiegle, Andy Mushynsky and Leo Duranona)
An omnibus which collects the stories 'The Fate of Atlantis', 'Thunder in the Orient' and 'The Arms of Gold'. The first is an adaption of the computer game of the same name in which Indy and his friend and rival Sophia Hapgood undertake a quest to locate the lost civilisation of Atlantis. The second story is something of a sequel to the first, in which Indy and Sophia find themselves in the Far East, racing against Imperialist Japanese to find mythical Shangri-La. The final story has Doctor Jones on the hunt for an ancient Incan treasure said to have remarkable powers.
Whilst 'Fate of Atlantis' is a good story, it suffers from being a game adaption, something which is rarely successful in bridging the gap in the media. The problem is that Indy and Sophia's travels from place to place, gathering an important clue in each one, are just too transparent as adaptions of levels from the game, making it all seem a bit contrived and repetetive. However, the friendship between our hero and the lady of the piece is brilliantly written. Rather than just another notch on Indy's bedpost, it's explictly stated that there's never been any sexual tension between them; although that does prompt Indiana to muse on what he would do if Sophie 'came out of the bedroom right now, in something frilly, and said "Take me Indiana"'.
'Thunder in the Orient' is by far the best story on offer here. It takes the good elements of 'Fate of Atlantis', particularly the interesting relationship between Indy and Sophia, and breaks them free of the constraints of being a game adaption. Also, the Far East is an exciting new domain for Indy's adventures (not counting his run-in with Lao Che in Shanghai) and it's interesting to see the Japanese as the villains of the piece rather than the usual Nazis.
The third and final story is not nearly as strong as the previous two and somehow manages to fail to make the most of taking Doctor Jones back to South America where his adventures began (the flawless opening sequence of 'Raiders...').
Overall an enjoyable collection of romps for our beloved procurer or rare antiquities but not without its flaws.
3 out of 5
Indiana Jones Omnibus: Volume 2
featuring Pat McGreal, Dave Rawson, Gary Gianni, Joe Pinney, Hal Barwood, Bill Stoneham, Aric Wilmunder, Lee Marrs, Elaine Lee and Karl Kesel
(Art by Ken Hooper, Stan Woch, Eric Shanower, Gary Gianni, Leo Duranona, Will Simpson, Dan Spiegel, Karl Kesel, Paul Guinan and Eduardo Barreto)
A collection of five stories published by Dark Horse which take place across the Indy timeline. In these adventures Doctor Henry Jones Jnr. finds himself on the hunt for such mythical artifacts as the Golden Fleece, the Philosopher's Stone (he should've looked in Hogwarts) and the Spear of Destiny, all the while running afoul of pirates, Communists and, of course, Nazis.
Sadly, the stories gathered here are generally shorter and of lesser quality than those in the first omnibus, with ones like '...Shrine of the Sea Devil' seeming little more than an excuse to have Indy encounter Amelia Earhart. '...the Sargasso Pirates', whilst one of the longer stories on offer is actually by far the worst for various reasons, not least of which is that there is a character pretending to be Indy's brother who calls himself New Jersey Jones. Seriously?
However, do not despair, because there is a real gem on offer here. 'Indiana Jones and the Spear of Destiny' by Elaine Lee feels like a true continuation of the movies. This is partly because it's an action-packed quest to prevent a powerful mythical object from falling into the hands of Adolf Hitler, but there is by far a better link on offer: Professor Henry Jones. The interplay between Harrison Ford's Indy and his father, played by Sean Connery, was one of the greatest elements of the movie trilogy (we do not talk of a fourth film) and it amazes me that it took so long for any writer to take that idea and run with it.
The other good element of this collection is seeing Soviets take on zombie Nazis in 1947. I kid you not.
3 out of 5
Iron Fist: The Fury Of Iron Fist/The Last Iron Fist Story
featuring Roy Thomas, Ed Brubaker and Matt Fraction
(Art by Gil Kane, Dick Giordano, David Aja, Travel Foreman, Derek Fridolfs, Russ Heath, John Severin, Sal Buscema and Tom Palmer)
Marvel's Mightiest Heroes Book 54, featuring two stories of Immortal Iron Fist the Living Weapon. The first story is the character's first appearance and origin story, revealing how young Danny Rand began and later completed his training at the mystical city of K'un-Lun. The second story has Danny under attack by Hydra and his old enemy Steel Serpent, a situation complicated further by the discovery that another Iron Fist is at large in New York.
I've always loved old kung fu movies of the kind that inspired Iron Fist's creation in the 70s, so the basic tone and premise of these stories has a lot of appeal to me. That said, the first story does little more than set the scene, featuring Iron Fist being tested by his mentors whilst having flashbacks to the deaths of his parents and his arrival at K'un-Lun. It does a perfectly adequate job of setting the character up from scratch, but it's not that interesting as a story in and of itself.
The second story is much more engrossing, with Danny trying to balance being the billionaire head of a corporation with also being an unregistered and illegal superhero (this comes in the wake of Mark Millar's 'Civil War'). The fact that Hydra is trying to force a takeover of his company as well as the fact that there's another Iron Fist running around tapping into the same chi that Danny uses ups the ante a great deal. What follows is some really engaging character beats interspersed with martial arts action and is pretty satisfying. It certainly helps that Luke Cage, Misty Knight and Colleen Wing all turn up to fight Hydra too.
3 out of 5
Iron Man: Iron Man Is Born/The Five Nightmares
(Art by Don Heck and Salvador Larroca)
Marvel's Mightiest Heroes Book 13. Here we get Iron Man's first ever appearance, where Tony Stark builds a suit of armour to save his own life whilst in the hands of Vietnamese communists. The second story leaps forward to the aftermath of 'Civil War' (by Mark Millar) where Tony is trying to balance his lives as an Avenger, as CEO of Stark Industries and as Director of S.H.I.E.L.D., a task made infinitely harder by the efforts of the brilliant but psychotic terrorist Ezekiel Stane.
If you've seen the 2008 Iron Man movie (and you really should have!) then the origins of the armoured superhero won't come as any surprise to you, since the first half of the movie sticks pretty closely to the story laid out here by Lee and Lieber. What is interesting is seeing the story in its original framing, specifically the Vietnam War. When Iron Man got his start the war in Vietnam and the threat of 'the commies!' was prevalent in the American collective consciousness, so its only natural that the brothers Stan and Larry tapped into that the create a new hero. It has to be said, however, that the depiction of the North Vietnamese here is not particularly PC, although that too is a little window into the mind of the USA at the time.
The bulk of this book is made up of Fraction's story 'The Five Nightmares' in which an overworked Tony has to face the fact that his technology has fallen into the hands of terrorists. This story felt oddly lacking in impact, with the feeling that we've seen Tony tackle these issues before. Now, it could simply be that my brain is mingling in the movie version of the character, but I definitely feel like Stark tech ending up in the wrong hands has been done before. On top of that, the villain of the piece is a standard son-of-supervillain who swears revenge for the 'murder' of his father. It basically just hits all the same beats as Spidey versus Harry Osborn. So, ultimately, this story didn't feel like it really broke any new ground.
3 out of 5