In the action figure world, Action Man is to G.I. Joe what GoBots are to Transformers, which is, in some respects, a cheap replication. Originally conceived as a British licensed reproduction of “the All-American Hero” in the mid ‘60s, Action Man has become larger than its small beginnings…at least on the other side of the pond, that is. British cartoons, comic books, and video games have featured the character for half a century and have had a cultural impact for kids across the United Kingdom and the rest of Europe (there was even a weird French Action Man TV show for a bit).
With that being said, I found it difficult to get too excited about reading a revamped American comic version of a character I had very little interaction with as a child. There was no nostalgia itch to scratch. Luckily, after finishing Action Man #1, I was pleasantly surprised by how competent and fun the book was. The creative team of John Barber (Transformers) and Paolo Villanelli (G.I. JOE: Snake Eyes, Agent of Cobra) are definitely in their wheelhouse with this comic. They execute a pretty fun, little story and create a new backstory for Action Man (don’t worry, he still loves action and he is, in fact, a man) that opens up a lot of possibilities for the character despite being kinda dumb.
What made me enjoy this book more than I thought I would is the idea of Action Man being a moniker, not just a person. It’s something I’ve been waiting to see a creative team do with James Bond for quite some time. I’m a sucker for stories about torches being passed down and although it’s not treading any new ground, Barber and Villanelli present a fun story with some pretty kickass action set pieces. These guys should probably be choreographing fight scenes for movies or at least work on their storyboards.
Barber knows what sort of property he’s working with, and he treats Action Man like the toys that spawned him. He’s having fun with the character and is able to give the property a jolt of relevance and potential excitement. While there really isn’t much to the story in this first issue, it’s still a fun read. This isn’t a relax-with-a-bourbon-in-an-armchair sort of comic. This is a grab-something-to-read-during-your-morning-constitutional sort of comic, and that is by no means a strike against it.
Paolo Villanelli’s artwork is solid, but doesn’t set the world ablaze. His layouts scream run-of-the-mill summer blockbuster. You’ve seen everything in this comic before, but that doesn’t mean it’s not fun to look at. This is a popcorn comic through and through. Villanelli understands that any artist trying to draw Action Man really only has one job: make the action pop. He does this effortlessly, but his expositional panels are somewhat bland.
Action Man #1 is a fast and fun read. What this issue lacks in substance it makes up for in cool action sequences and a fairly interesting setup. If you’re a fan of Barber and Villanelli’s respective works from IDW, then you’ll enjoy this book.
- Awesome action
- Cool revamped character
- Brings nothing new to the table
- Kind of dumb