Friday, June 22, 2007

The Further Adventures of Indiana Jones #34

The Further Adventures of Indiana Jones #34, March 1986, Marvel Comics
writer: Linda Grant
penciller: Steve Ditko
inker: Danny Bulanadi
letterer: Diana Albers
colorist: Ken Feduniewicz
editor: Ralph Macchio
EIC: Jim Shooter

With Steven Spielberg's picture of Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones generating buzz about the adventuring archaeologist's long awaited fourth film, I thought an issue of Marvel's The Further Adventures of Indiana Jones would be in order. Fortunately, I had this one waiting in the wings from a twenty-five cent back issue bin dig a few months ago. Indeed, the comic book collector, in his often dusty quest to find obscure, possibly misfiled gems in countless comic shops' long boxes, can easily relate to Indiana Jones and his global exploration of the planet, particularly when that journey takes the whip wielding professor to the most cobweb ridden corners of forsaken cultures or civilizations. While the new Jones movie is sure to show us how the character has evolved since his pre-WWII adventures, it may show us how we've changed, as well.

Certainly this issue is about change, as a previously harmless lighthouse keeper transforms into a power hungry mad sorcerer under the influence of a stolen ancient amulet, once the magical of a civilian that sought to abolish the seven mystics ruling them. When this lighthouse keeper, Ian Soames, hired master thief Amanda Knight to steal the artifact from Connecticut's National Museum, Indy tracked her to Estry Island, where they battled an Army of Darkness like band of resurrected skeletons under Soames' spell. Though Indy finds the aid of an old man with a connection to the Earth's mysterious leylines (a phenomenon occasionally used to explain unknown happenings in literature; in comics, reference Detective #617), Soames eventually corners Jones and Knight in his watchtower, a fatal mistake when "Junior" realizes that the lighthouse is the source of the sorcerer's power. Long story short, he recovers the amulet and the girl gets away, but few characters in cinema really comprehend that you win some and you lose some more than Indiana Jones. Though this issue's dialogue is a bit long-winded at times, I understand that writer Linda Grant was attempting to infuse her plot with the witty banter that made the Indiana Jones franchise so charming, but the chit-chat subdued some of the action that propelled this story and slowed its momentum a bit. Still, she balanced elements of magic and the mundane successfully to create a raucous tale with some semblance of a moral, with a message about preserving the past to preserve a safe future -- not that a theme is particularly important in this case. Actually, the pretty pictures are yet another distraction; Steve Ditko's pencils were a pleasant surprise when I first opened this issue, though I wish he had inked his work, as well. Much more reserved than his "Marvel Age" signature style, Ditko's characters were still expressive and melodramatic, and though he attempted to offer the occasional caricature of Harrison Ford, he used the actor's features more as a chiseled inspiration than a template. Ditko's layouts needed more room to breath, but such is the cost of blowing a lot of hot air.
So, you get action and adventure. Archaeological intrigue. A power-hungry villain and a tirelessly meddling woman. And, caught in the middle, the insufferable Indiana Jones, the everyman with a dose of courage and an obscene knowledge of global history. Just as Batman is the powerless superhero, Indiana Jones is just a few fine characteristics away from being one of us. No wonder we can't wait to see him again. Based on that picture of Harrison Ford, he's already whipped!

No comments: