Saturday 18 July 2009

Lives Without Dull Moments

Each of the books reviewed this week have "normal" protagonists with lives filled with an unrealistic degree of non-stop action.

Indiana Jones and The Tomb of The Gods collects the four-issue mini-series of the same name. The mini-series came to its conclusion in March.

Since most people have a basic idea of who Indiana Jones is and what he does, an explanation would be almost unnecessary.

However, most doesn't equal all.

Indiana Jones is an archaeology professor by day, adventurer by night. He first appeared in the 1981 film Raiders of The Lost Ark. In that film, along with most of his other movie and television appearances, the character was played by Harrison Ford.

With events set during the same year as those that took place in Raiders of The Lost Ark, 1936, Indiana Jones and The Tomb of The Gods has Jones and his colleague Marcus Brody chasing after the stolen pieces of a key to the aforementioned tomb. As with other Indiana Jones stories, the adventure incorporates plenty of globetrotting.

Indiana Jones and The Tomb of The Gods has exactly the sort of story anyone would expect from Mr. Jones' keepers. It's a book about running. Indiana Jones runs from the bad guys, then he runs after them. Such plot point dance steps are repeated as many times as necessary.

The formula doesn't render the book as a completely bad thing. After all, it worked for 4 movies. Unfortunately, despite their obvious relationship and similarities, comic books and motion pictures are unique forms of communication. What works for one of them doesn't necessarily work for the other. This is such a case.

The book also contains two sequences that annoyed the hell out of me.

The first one is a reworked event from Raiders "" Indiana escapes from a mob via airplane. The second sequence was too unbelievable to even be entertaining "" a great white shark destroys his already half-sunk boat ... But he doesn't get killed!

Next on this week's list is Modesty Blaise: The Lady Killers, Book 16 in Titan's series of Modesty Blaise reprint books. Once completed, the series will contain the entire comic strip that ran from 1963 until 2002.

The Lady Killers presents three story arks that were originally printed between May 27, 1980 and August 27, 1981: Dossier on Pluto (about dolphins), The Lady Killers (about a feminist terrorist group), and Garvin's Travels (about kidnapped friends). As a bonus, it includes previously "lost" strips that were not included in earlier volumes. The lost strips were printed between 1963 and 1970.

More like James Bond than Indiana Jones, Modesty Blaise is a rich 28-year-old woman with an almost passion for destroying the plans of evildoers. She mostly intercepts villains in the name of the Queen but sometimes for whomever else require her services (example: C.I.A.). She can easily defend herself but her occasional boyfriend Willie Garvin is usually assisting her.

The story arks presented in The Lady Killers are like the sort of adventures Bond's known for. The protagonists prevent villains from succeeding by using consequence-free violence. With that in mind, it's almost a guilty pleasure of a book.

It's interesting to note that the British comic strip's non-American origins are very obvious due to the quantity of panels containing nudity. If such things don't exist in 99.9 per cent of modern US comic strips, they certainly didn't in 1980. However, if they do exist, the newspapers running them probably censor their content.

It should be noted that, not unlike other fictitious action characters, Indiana Jones and Modesty Blaise are difficult to relate to on the physical level. No, I'm not referring to their muscular physique but rather the amount of rest they take. They always seem to be bouncing from one adventure to another one. If they were real people, it would be time for a burnout and/or a long vacation.

Despite their flaws, Indiana Jones and The Tomb of The Gods and Modesty Blaise: The Lady Killers are still good examples of escapist entertainment.

Indiana Jones and The Tomb of The Gods gets 5 out of 10, while Modesty Blaise: The Lady Killers rates a 6 out of 10.

Bernard C. Cormier is, among other things, a freelance writer and broadcaster. E-mail: © Bernard C. Cormier 2009