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It’s not the pages, honey, it’s the mileage – The Further Adventures of Indiana Jones #19

August 7, 2010

That’s a pretty neat cover, one of those images that makes you look twice. Kudos to Bret Blevins. At first glance you just see Indy clinging with his whip to, well, whatever he’s clinging to. Then you see the title and you take a second look and that’s when you see the unmistakable shadow beneath him.

Or maybe you see all of that at first blush and I’m just an unobservant idiot.

I love me some Indiana Jones (though Kingdom of the Crystal Skull does not exist in this dojo). Raiders of the Lost Ark is the greatest adventure film of all time, and the next two sequels’ only sin was not being the original. Indy’s a cinematic icon. I love that guy. I mean, when I first saw his fedora in the Smithsonian my heart skipped a beat. It’s Indiana f*%$ing Jones, people!

So I must like the comics, right? Well, sort of. Let’s look at this one. While it’s a fun ride, I think it illustrates some of what doesn’t work when this character is thrown into the newsprint medium.

“Dragon by the Tail” is brought to us by Larry Lieber (script and pencils), Vince Colletta and Jack Abel. It finds Indiana parachuting into the Himalayas to put a stop to a Japanese plot. An old friend of Indy’s has written him and informed him of his (the friend’s) discovery of a primitive people living in the mountains. These folks run around in the snow half-naked, but the really remarkable thing is that they worship the frozen body of a dragon. This Japanese archeologist wants to let sleeping dragons lie, but the military caste in his country has different ideas about what to do with Fin Fang Fo-, wait, I mean the dragon:

Indy’s out to nip this in the bud before the dragon can be revived, hence his current mission. He sneaks up on a Japanese guard with internal and external dialogue that rings very, very false to my trained Indy ears:

Can you picture Harrison Ford uttering those lines?

He then drops a comment that seems like a bit of an anachronism:

Was the U.S. really importing a lot of commercial products from Japan in the 30’s? Enough so that Indy would feel compelled to mock their wares’ inferior quality? That sounds more like something from the mid-80’s zeitgeist that surrounded this comic’s inception.

Indy fails miserably at stopping the Japanese and they cart the frozen dragon back to Japan by zeppelin. He does manage to make nice with the natives and gets an ancient scroll from them that will come in handy later on.

We jump cut to Japan, where Indy skulks his way to the home of his archeologist friend. We’re soon given proof that he never fails to get off on the wrong foot with women:

The ol’ Indy charm calms things down, but he learns that his friend comitted ritual suicide because, though he felt he did the right thing by warning Indy, he still betrayed his country by doing so. His daughter helps Indy by showing him a temple where she suspects the Japanese military may be hiding the dragon.

Indy sneaks in and battles an out of place but I suppose obligatory-in-a-comic-book-world samurai and a sumo wrestler’s ginormous ass cheeks:

After whooping them like the guy with the swords in Raiders, Indy finds Fin Fang Fo-, I mean the dragon. The Japanese are gradually reviving it so that it will eventually come to over the U.S.A., but Indy speeds up the awakening process through some quick sabotage:

Now America won’t be menaced, but our dashing hero suddenly has an out of control dragon on his hands, one that could harm Japanese civilians. After lassoing it and then riding it like Slim Pickens astride the bomb in Dr. Strangelove, Indy reads the incantation he got from the natives and the big beastie dissolves. Fin Fang Fo-, I mean the dragon returns to his icy slumber with the natives who in turn feel gratitude towards their stubbly friend:

Indy says his goodbyes to his fetching Japanese babe and reflects on the precarious nature of the peace he’s preserved:

A few observations…I kind of like the use of the Pacific portion of the future Axis in this story — it turns out Hitler wasn’t the only one who was jonesing (forgive me) to use some mystical hazarai in his march to conquest. The dragon isn’t really a story problem — if we can have the Ark, the Grail, and some glowing stones, we can have a giant flying magic lizard, and I like Lieber’s depiction of the monster. But the use of thought balloons with Indy seems to be a little much — he’s such a man of action in the movies, with entire sequences happening with nary a peep from him, hearing (reading) his thoughts is awkward. And the one liners and general glibness, like Indy is Spider-Man…woof. That does not, I repeat, DOES NOT work with Indiana Jones.

It could be that I’m just set in my ways, that I’m too enamored of the silver screen version. Or maybe this depiction just blows. It’s not a terrible comic — it’s just not a great Indiana Jones comic. I’ll have to check out some other Indy books at a later date to see if they handle him better, and to see if Indiana Jones can be successfully translated to my beloved comics medium.

“Snakes…Why did it have to be snakes?”

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