Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Where the ACTION Is


3 1/2 whiskers

The new CAPTAIN ACTION #1 “Season 2” picks up the, well, action from the previous series and gets right down to business. This is a solid adventure-intrigue comic with a lot going for it and though it isn’t perfect it tries hard and succeeds more than it fails.

The original Fabian Nicieza premise of super-spies and super-heroes in a world invaded by aliens from the previous series is further explored here and it’s an interesting one. It’s more super-spies than super-heroes but there are plenty of fisticuffs for, well, action fans. Steven Grant’s writing is competent and steady, with relatively-smooth dialogue and I had no real complaints with the pacing. Manuel Martin’s art is very nice, with – dare I say it – a very-occasional Wally Wood vibe, which is appropriate. Again, it’s a book that has it together in many ways and Moonstone should be proud of the package.

The story jumps right in from the previous series and puts our somewhat-newbie Captain Action right in the middle of trouble. Posing as the President of The United States he tires of his masquerade and when he tries to bail rushes headlong into a confrontation with Russian super-agents. One of the things I like best here is the relationship between Our Hero and his father, the former Captain Action of the 1960s. This isn’t the clichéd “I hate my dad and everything he stood for” rebellious relationship; the two men aren’t exactly the best of buds but they manage to work together and Captain Action Senior has much still to offer in his current role.

I also appreciate that the Captain Action owners haven’t relied on pure nostalgia here to sell the book. It must have been a challenge, to find a new path for the character, without miring him in the swamp of the 1960s yet not changing him so much his original fans couldn’t recognize him. The balance in CAPTAIN ACTION #1 is a good one, with equal parts past, present and future. Something for everyone.

Here’s where the book stumbles: not enough Captain Action. Let me clarify – for most of the, well, action herein Our Hero is not himself. See, in order to retain the old “man of a thousand faces” concept from the original 1960s toys, they’ve hooked him up with this stuff that allows him to change his appearance – and super-powers – at will. Problem is that you get Captain Action as everyone else but himself most times. The redesign of the original costume is a very good one and I wish I’d seen it more in what is an inaugural issue of sorts. I sympathize with what the creators have to deal with to make the Captain more than just the normal guy in the blue-black suit, but maybe they erred on the side of, well, action than image this time.

Also, there’s very little back-story relayed here and for someone picking up this book for the first time there may be a bit of confusion. I knew the back-story and I was still struggling at times to dope out the proceedings. And while I’m at it, the moratorium on Obama appearances should begin any moment now. Seriously, guys, it had its day quite a long time ago. Now, it’s just marketing, and not very good marketing. More like pandering.

We also get a retro Action Boy back-up tale which is a lot of fun and connects to the main story. Good to see this character wasn’t forgotten and is being brought into the fold to join the good Captain. This was a nice addition to the book and I for one am intrigued with where they're going with it.

Overall, Joe Ahearn and Ed Catto, the current owners of Captain Action, have been quality caretakers for the property, more so than any others who’ve tried to resurrect the character since his original days as an Ideal action figure. They’ve started with a good foundation, an interesting world in which Captain Action lives, and seem to have a plan in place to grow it. Again, they’re not just relying on nostalgia though they do tip their hats to it and recognize it for its worth. This is a crucial time, I think, as they could easily sink this property than save it. If this new CAPTAIN ACTION #1 is any indication, I think they’re going to save it.

Give it a try. There are far, far worse ways to spend your disposable dough at the comic shop these days.

No comments: