Graphic Novel Review Week
Not long ago I reviewed a graphic novel written by Chris Roberson titled Masks, in which some masked crime fighters from the late 1930’s worked together. Now, Roberson has stepped in to the future (from the 1930’s) to the late-1950’s-mid-1960’s era. If you think about the fact that masked crime fighters were the popular media figures from the 30’s, what might you think of as popular in the late 50’s? Action/adventure spies!
Roberson here writes a nice homage to the James Bond era with this book, Codename: Action, complete with sexy femme fatales and numbers instead of names and criminals of the egghead variety on remote islands!
We start with new agent (called “Operatives” or “Operators”) 1001 teaming up with legend Operator 5 to figure out who is replacing world leaders with doppelgänger, and why (presumably to start the next world war).
Roberson manages to include The Green Hornet and Kato, as well as a costumed superhero called The American Crusader. Both are very appropriate to this era as The Green Hornet made the cross from the pulps to radio to television, and the costumed superheroes began to make their appearances at about this same time. Together, these three types of crime fighters blend together to create what the superheroes become, a topic which Roberson weaves in to the story superbly.
The artwork by Jonathan Lau is quite nice and captures the mood and style of the period.
And while I like what Roberson has done, creating new-but-recognizable characters and given us a glimpse at how our crime fighters have morphed from one variety in to another, this particular story felt lacking to me. The story got just a little out of control (although, in retrospect, it’s still in line with the ‘wackiness’ of the era and the whole atomic age) as it reached the climax and when it finished I thought…”that’s it?” While it clearly opened the door to future stories (or a future series), this was a self-contained, concluding story, which I greatly appreciate.
The book concludes with the script for issue #1 of the Codename: Action comic and a cover gallery and a character guide for the artists. These sorts of bonuses are becoming fairly common in graphic novels.
Looking for a good book? Codename: Action Volume 1 is a solid, steady graphic novel that honors the period of spy movies but doesn’t quite rise above the mediocre plotting of those same spy films.
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Codename: Action Volume 1
author: Chris Roberson
artist: Jonathan Lau
publisher: Dynamite Entertainment
paperback, 128 pages