Monday, September 7, 2009

Marvel Unbound - Indiana Jones Omnibus: The Further Adventures, Volume 1

I’ve heard Marvel’s Further Adventures of Indiana Jones take a beating for a lack of quality among hindsighted comics fans. But, as a child of the ‘80s, one who was right in the crosshairs of both Indy and Marvel, and after reading Dark Horse’s Indiana Jones Omnibus: The Further Adventures, Volume 1, I have few problems with any of it.

My wife and kiddo have a bunch of Dark Horse Omnibuses (Omnibi?), but this one was my first. The smaller format – somewhere between a standard size comic and a digest-sized trade paperback – is a little frustrating, but the quality of the reprinting isn’t bad, and the collection is thoughtfully put together.

This first volume kicks off right with the inclusion of Marvel’s three-issue “Official Comics Adaptation” of Raiders of the Lost Ark from 1981! I’m pretty sure my buddy Mark either had the original issues or the mass paperback-sized Marvel Illustrated Books' black and white collection, but I don’t know that I’ve read this in decades. Walt Simonson penned the adaptation and his cover for issue
#3 is fantastic. The renderings of Indy and Marion Ravenwood are more impressionistic than attempts at spot-on depictions of Harrison Ford and Karen Allen, but the cover conveys the action of the final act perfectly.

The movie adaptation is followed by the initial 12 issues of The Further Adventures series from 1983. The first few issues are penned by John Byrne and Denny O’Neil before David Michelinie took over the reigns for the remaining nine issues. And the Byrn
e/O’Neil issues are good, but I’m not sure why they are held in higher regard than the Michelinie run as far as storytelling quality goes. If anything, I thought issues #7 through #12 were the best of the collection.

Things can get sloppy at times, like when issue #2
ends with Indy parachuting out of a doomed plane into blue skies and pink clouds, but when the action resumes on the splash page of issue #3 “only moments” later, we find our hero parachuting into a ferocious “storm-driven afternoon.” I don’t know if that’s careless writing on O’Neil’s part, or sloppy transition between Byrne and Gene Day and Richard Howell on the art, but I remember noticing that even as a kid.

But there is a lot of fun packed into these pages, and that far outweighs the nitpicking. Michelinie’s storytelling is well-done for a licensed property. Although I have to wonder how hamstrung Marvel was in their attempts as stringing together some continuity around the Lucas/Spielberg property, Michelinie is able to weave well-known characters and reference artifacts from the original movie into the series with little disruption.

Back i
n the day, seeing characters from a movie you loved come to life beyond the screen was a thrill. And even having my perception colored by what I know of Marion and Sallah and Marcus Brody in canon films like Last Crusade and Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, I still felt a jolt of excitement each time they showed up on these pages. Heck, even the Chachapoyan Fertility Idol Rene Belloq took from Indy in the opening sequence of Raiders makes an appearance here!

For the most part, these are two-issue stories that provide a lot of fun. “Africa Screams” (issues #7 and #8), “The Gold Goddess” (#9 and #10), and “The Fourth Nail” (#11 and #12) were all entertaining rides. Michelinie shines particularly bright with a bit of symmetrically karmic storytelling in chapter two of “The Gold Goddess” when he repeats a narrative device he used for Indy in the opening pages again at the end of the story, only this time applying it to the bad guy’s predicament.

To be honest, I prior to this collection, I had only ever read the first four issues of the series. I have no idea why I didn’t buy any more of the single issues when they were originally released, though I suspect it had more to do with either my own preteen financial budgeting shortcomings or the unreliability of the corner convenience store’s selection month-to-month than any unremembered, specific dislike I might have had for the title. I mean, if I’d followed this entire run as a twelve-year-old Raiders fan back in the early ‘80s, I can’t imagine any reaction other than eating it up!

From the Dark Horse solicit, it looks like Volume 2 is going to collect the next 12 issues of the series, along with the three-issue Temple of Doom adaptation. I’ve never read any of those issues, but based on what I read and enjoyed so much here, I think it’s fair to say I’m in!

1 comment:

Mark Sample said...

Oh, yes, I have the original Marvel comic adaptation, a "64 page collector special!" A while ago I posted a cover scan from my collection on Flickr.