REVIEW: CODENAME – ACTION – VOLUME 1 / AUTHOR: CHRIS ROBERSON / ARTIST: JONATHAN LAU / PUBLISHER: DYNAMITE / RELEASE DATE: JULY 1ST
Nostalgia fuelled spin-off media based on popular toys are a mainstay of the comic book industry, and there is quite a demand for them. One of the more unusual recent toy tie-ins has been books based on the 1966 action figure Captain Action. In case you’re unfamiliar with the doll, Captain Action was an Action Man-style dress-up doll who came with a variety of outfits allowing him to become other heroes. Examples included The Lone Ranger, The Phantom and The Green Hornet. Codename: Action is an attempt to give this manikin an origin story.
The result is a comic book that feels as if it was scripted by throwing a lot of action figures at some enthusiastic kids and watching them play for a few hours. It’s a jumble of ideas; mostly spy-fi high-tech adventure, but with its fair share of alien conspiracy, two-fisted justice and superhero action. It riffs off all sorts of fun cult TV shows and movies including The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and anything Gerry Anderson ever made.
The plot involves world leaders behaving strangely and the cold war hotting up. You could argue that this is a cliché, but Codename: Action just about gets away with making it feel more like a classic storyline, rather than old hat.
Jonathan Lau’s art adds to the retro feel. The older, wiser secret agent is drawn to look almost (but not quite) like Sean Connery, the foxy female agent is a nice blend of female action heroes from the '60s and even the mad scientists look iconic and appropriately in period. The background art is also a clever blend of various movie and TV sets and, though the art style is modern, it almost looks like it’s something from over 50 years ago. Those familiar with the Captain Action toys will notice that various brand elements are loud and proud, but the rest of us will be able to enjoy it as pure pulp silliness.