Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Indiana Jones Comic Book Revue#3

All books are rated on a 0 to 5 Fedoras system.

The Further Adventures of Indiana Jones #4
(Marvel Comics Group)

Written by: David Michelinie
Pencilled by: Ron Frenz
Inked by: Danny Bulandi
Cover by: Ron Frenz & Mike Gustovich

"Running's good for ya! Sometimes it keeps ya alive!"

Dateline 1936

"Gateway to Infinity!" kicks off with our intrepid hero airborn and on his way to London. His purpose there is to assist with a very important translation job relating to an artifact found in one of the Stonehenge blocks. In a scene reminiscent of the Lao Che Air Freight incident from Temple of Doom, Indy runs afoul of the Germans whose interest in the artifact leaves Dr. Jones, once again, a Nazi target. After taking a dip into the English Channel, Indy gets picked up by a Navy patrol boat and manages to keep his date with British intelligence.

Once there, he is introduced to Professor Karen Mays, the woman who he will be working with on the project. Mays is, like so many women in Indy's romantic life (at least in the expanded universe), a redhead and is also their top expert on ancient languages. Indy takes a shine to Mays and turns on the charm, convincing her to go out for dinner with him where the Nazis take another crack at eliminating the good doctor. Failing to poison him through his soup as Indy sees through the ruse, Jones and Mays leave the restaurant and spend the next few days translating the artifact.

Turns out the crystal's markings were carved by a civilization that pre-dated man on this Earth and claims that 'they' will return when needed. 'Their' return just happens to coincide, astrologically, with "midnight tonight", according to Mays and the two set off to meet the would be visitors, but not before being attacked, yet again, by the Nazis who are desperate to be the first to meet these creatures. A chase ensues throughout London and the cliffhanger ending leaves Indy and Mays trapped in a Rolls sedan and going off one of London's many bridges. The next issue blurb reads, "What Lurks at Stonehenge? (And Will Indy Live Long Enough To Find Out?)"

I know the recap sounds a little dull, but "Gateway" is a surprisingly entertaining issue. The characterization of Indiana Jones by David Michelinie is, in hindsight, not perfect, but when you consider he was basing everything on Raiders and what he knew of the pulp/serials heroes of the period that influenced Indy's creators, he does a commendable job. Indy has a bit of that Raiders smarminess when dealing with people he doesn't like very much and shows tremendous ingenuity in getting out of a scrape. I like how things move along quickly in the story which keeps the energy up and doesn't let it get too bogged down in the otherworldly creature storyline that drives the A plot. I think, even at this stage of the game, if they tried to intellectualize an alien story, the whole thing would have just fallen apart.

I should also give kudos to Ron Frenz, new artist in residence, who shows that he can take Michelinie's story and turn it into a fun, well-paced read. I've always kind of liked Frenz' earlier work (which can also be seen in some great Amazing Spider-Man issues not long after this) and he is a welcome addition to this series. He also does a good job of capturing the period and injecting some stylistic flourishes that give the whole thing an old adventure strip sort of feel.

I should note for fans of the expanded universe (meaning Young Indy, the novels and comics) it's kind of neat that Indy was sent on a translation job since that was his specialty when he was younger and it's not something that gets mentioned much in the films (he does a lot of reading and translating, but his aptitude for it is rarely brought to anyone's attention). While Dr. Jones is, indeed, an archaeologist, he is first and foremost an expert at languages, modern and ancient. That he was brought in for expressly that purpose (something Michelinie couldn't have possibly foreseen at this stage of the game) is a nice little added plus to the proceedings.

A good effort overall, although I'll admit that I'm dreading the extra-dimensional beings that are going to materialize through Stonehenge in the next issue. I can't see anything good coming of that. Still, it was better than the last issue but not quite as good as Byrne's so I'm going to go with a three fedora salute this time around. Until next time...

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