Thursday, 29 December 2016

Action Man #1 - IDW Publishing

ACTION MAN No. 1, June 2016
Based upon a late Sixties “twelve-inch doll for boys to play with in various different army outfits”, this bitterly disappointing twenty-six page modern-day reinvention of “the United Kingdom’s one-man answer to G.I. Joe” into an almost omnipotent MI5 operative appears to have been a major miscalculation by “IDW Publishing” and their supposed ‘God of Continuity’, writer John Barber. Indeed, if it wasn’t for the fact that the super-talented spy depicted within Issue One of “Action Man” wasn’t persistently referred to as “A.M.”, then one could quite easily be forgiven for believing the former senior editor’s narrative is actually portraying Ian Fleming’s internationally famous fictional British secret serviceman, rather than being based upon the accessory-laden figure produced by “Palitoy”.

Disconcertingly however, this shock that the “master of all forms of fighting, communication, and disguise” is also “a tenth-level judo black belt, member of Mensa, and a three-star Michelin chef”, as opposed to a veteran military operative deployed to the toughest known warzones in the world, is as nothing compared to the astonishment caused by the freelance comic book writer’s decision to kill the titular character off at the conclusion of the prologue, and replace him with the immeasurably immature and juvenile Agent Ian Noble; “one of A.M.’s support crew”, who, whilst “capable enough”, has so many “ideas beyond his station” as to be entirely unlikeable and, perhaps more importantly, utterly unbelievable as the “muppet” who won the top prize...   

Admittedly, not everything within Barber’s re-imagining is entirely without merit. The ‘new’ Action Man’s incompetent attempt to thwart a group of terrorists planning to detonate a dirty bomb outside Shepreth Wildlife Park certainly proves pulse-pounding enough, as the youngster guns down a train-full of hijackers and derails the locomotive straight into the middle of a “tiger enrichment programme.” But such scintillating sequences are few and far between within a narrative seemingly far more interested in undermining the abilities of its disagreeable and somewhat foul-mouthed lead protagonist.

Paolo Villanelli’s decidedly Manga-influenced breakdowns don’t help the accessibility of this publication either. Though rather better than Chris Evenhuis’ soulless sketchings for the comic’s six-page prologue, the penciller’s inability to draw Noble consistently, especially during the more sedentary scenes, quickly irks, as does his propensity for incorporating numerous ‘speed lines’ whenever anything, even Ian's 'eagle eyes', move fast.
The regular cover art of "ACTION MAN" No. 1 by Chris Evenhuis


  1. As I recently told you, Simon, I was a big fan of Action Man in my childhood in the 1960's. That cover of Action Man in his WW2 British uniform brings back happy memories as it was one my brother had. When I saw that this comic was going to be launched it did pique my interest. But then I read the story plot and like you, saw a James Bond rip-off. Oh dear! I fear this is one series I will not be buying. Your review merely confirms my worst fears about it. A shame!

    1. I'm sure you won't be surprised to know Bryan that I understand "IDW Publishing" have already cancelled this series. However, I bought the first four issues blind, so I have a few more to review. I really think they should have tried to capture our generation with this comic, and gone for some good old-fashioned war stories (such as Garth Ennis seems to be doing so well currently).

    2. When my brother and I were collecting our Action Men products, there was a series of four novels published way back then. They perfectly captured the feel of Action Man even though they weren't all war stories. A spy story set around Cape Canaveral still resonates with me. The author clearly "got" what Action Man was all about. This new team do not appear to have the same understanding.

    3. Would that be "Race For The Moon" with Astronaut Action Man perchance Bryan? I'm certainly am not adverse to "Action Man" spy stories (and indeed A.M. in Roger Moore's yellow skiing attire is one of my faves). But those books you mention are precisely what I was hoping this comic book series would be like.

    4. That sounds exactly like the novel I was talking about, Simon. How the heck did you know that?

    5. The "Dive To Danger" cover of Deep Sea Diver Action Man squaring off against a giant octopus is a classic childhood image, so it wasn't hard to establish which one you were talking about. You might enjoy this website for a trip down memory lane my friend:

    6. Those are the very books I got. They were an unusual size being 5" square. I did enjoy reading them at the time. Thanks for allowing me a pleasant trip down memory lane.

    7. You're very welcome Bryan :-)