By John Barber, Paolo Villanelli, John-Paul Bove and Neil Uyetake.

This book misses the mark from start to finish and with a title like Action Man, you can’t help but expect more. The cover alone hints that something is amiss with a fairly simplistic, if not boring, image. That’s the “Regular Cover”, by the way, which ironically turns out to be an appropriate label. Even the four additional variant covers, though they may be slightly more interesting, don’t live up to expectations.

The comic happens to be professionally done, with suitable layouts and lettering, the latter of which, provided by Neil Uyetake, is very well done. The action, however, is bland and amounts to the hero, Action Man himself, repeatedly leaping into situations shooting two guns at once. If comic books are a place where anything can happen – an arena for imagination and creativity – then this book doesn’t capitalize on that.

Continuing the original Action Man’s legacy, his one-time sidekick carries the mantle as best he can. Disappointingly, what was billed as “the U.K.’s one-man answer to G.I. Joe” turns out to be a wildly unqualified guy wearing a drab costume. There’s nothing special about Action Man and without much of a hook, there’s no reason to want to read this comic. Unless you consider the fact that Action Man was a toy originally created to compete with the early G.I.Joe dolls a suitable hook. Assuming it was meant to, the new story falls short of revitalizing a franchise. Besides, this is a comic book, so you can only judge it based on your knowledge going into it, such as it may be. There is another reference to the toy on the “Toy Photo” variant cover, which may grab the attention of an adult in the know, but won’t be enough to engage new readers.

Action Man, written by John Barber (Transformers), manages to provide some witty dialogue at times, but the story seems like filler in the larger scheme of things. The series is part of publisher IDW’s Revolution, a convergence that brings a bunch of Hasbro properties under one title, which Barber oversees. Revolution has generated some buzz and definitely sounds exciting for fans. It’s also a reboot of sorts for some titles, which could mean even more fun for loyal readers. Think about it, collecting all of those characters in a single storyline could be amazing if done well. Writer Cullen Bunn (Harrow County) will be involved, so there’s more than likely stories of genuine quality in store for Revolution, but you won’t find it in Action Man. Putting “A.M.” alongside all of those other big name properties like Transformers and G.I.Joe may only further diminish both the character’s and the book’s credibility. Here’s hoping there’s more to the next issue, but so far it feels like a half-hearted attempt to breathe new life into a stale concept. This is not an “answer” to G.I. Joe by a long shot and doesn’t carry its own weight as far as fitting into a greater story arc.

Paolo Villanelli (Snake Eyes: Agent of Cobra) is typically impressive, but doesn’t seem to have enough good material to work with here. He’s a precise artist with few to no flaws, but in this case there’s a need for a little less precision and a little more mayhem. John-Paul Bove’s (Transformers) colors follow suit and give the artwork another layer of accuracy where the book could use a little more chaos. Overall the illustration is too clean and orderly to provide a sense of adventure or danger.

Even for an all-ages appropriate title, Action Man has got to do better in order to earn a spot on the shelf in a world full of successful, high-quality comics.


About The Author Matthew Strackbein

Matt Strackbein was born and raised in Maryland but has called Colorado home for the last 17 years where he lives happily in Longmont with his wife. He began reading comic books at the age of seven after discovering a silver age stash in his grandparents’ attic. Comic books inspired Matt to start drawing, which lead to a successful career as a commercial artist. He has worked in the apparel industry for many years as a production artist and designer. His accomplishments include designing backcountry skiwear for world-class athletes as well as downhill ski race suit designs for the 2014 Winter Olympics for the United States and Canadian national ski teams. Matt currently works as a freelance textile-print designer, but still dedicates time to his first love – comics. With over 200 letters to the editor published, Matt is a known letterhack. He self-publishes autobiographical comics about his struggles to break into the industry, which finally paid off when Dark Horse asked him to produce 2-page back up stories in recent issues of B.P.R.D. Besides his own comics, Matt collaborates on independent books as a colorist and letterer. He also teaches the art of making comics to students of all ages.