Monday, September 16, 2013

Codename Action (Comics, 2013)

Francavilla and Lee Covers (left to right) for Codename Action

This is an ongoing monthly review as each issue is released. This month I provide an overview, with more in depth analyze in subsequent months as the various stories are revealed. 

Out now on comic book shelves is the first issue of Codename Action, a toy franchise acquisitioned by Dynamite Entertainment earlier this year. If the title sounds vaguely familiar, then toy and comic fans may remember a 1960s character by the name of Captain Action, a creation by Stan Weston. Captain Action could take on the identity of his brethren – Superman, Batman, Spider-Man, and many others. Costumes of the other heroes were sold for Captain Action and he became such a hit that DC published a comic based on him. (See Toys You Had website for images of the original Captain Action figurine and various superhero outfits. There is a Round 2 Captain Action line out which you may have seen at your local comic shop. )

The series opens with three intertwining stories in the first issue that link into the larger, main story arc. The first story pairs a young new agent (Operative 1001) with a Cold War veteran agent (Operative 5), who must work together to solve who is the master mind behind supplanting key world leaders with antagonist, hot-headed doppelgangers hell-bent on kicking off a conflict with global repercussions. Right off the in opening pages, the reader is introduced to Operative 1001 as he successfully traverses through a danger infested office building. It is soon revealed that it was an obstacle training course, a beginning similar to the opening scenes of From Russia With Love (1963) and Never Say Never Again (1983). Meanwhile in France, an all female air defense team (reminiscent of Pussy Galore and her team in Goldfinger, 1964) is just finishing up a mission when they receive orders to eliminate a Soviet threat in Egypt. They question the order because of the global implications of carrying it out, tipping the reader off that the French Prime Minister is a doppelganger. The reader is left to wonder if they will follow orders. And in the third story, America’s officially sanctioned superhero, who has the power to influence US policy decisions, holds a press conference in which he advocates diplomacy as a peaceful resolution rather than war. However, when the masked crusader arrives home, he discovers a doppelganger waiting to step into his place.

French Pilots in action

The concept of using doppelgangers is not a new one, especially to the spy/espionage genre and of course the Bond franchise. In Thunderball (1965) and Never Say Never Again, doppelgangers were incorporated in the storyline: French NATO pilot Francois Derval and USAF pilot Jack Petachi (this impersonator also undergoes a retinal operation) respectively. These two Bondian examples were characters with high level security clearance rather than heads of state as in Codename Action, but they still had coveted access to nuclear bombs. And, one must not forget that even the various Blofeld characters in Diamonds are Forever (1971) were doppelgangers of Bond’s ongoing nemesis.

Other Bond tropes exist in Codename Action. Although the villain or secret organization is unknown at present after issue one, we do have M (Director Flagg) and a gadget specialist referred to as Quartermaster. There are gadgets aplenty, from low tech to high tech. We are deep into Bondesque territory, but writer Chris Roberson, who has written for several ongoing titles – Fables, House of Mystery, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, and Memorial from earlier this year - keeps the story fresh and readers looking forward to the next installment.

Lau uses white space to his advantage while Nunes colours and Bowland's lettering completes the page

Rounding out the Codename Action creative team: Jonathan Lau, Illustrator and Dynamite exclusive artist (Bionic Man, Green Hornet); Simon Bowland, Letterer; and Ivan Nunes, Colorist. Lau does a great job keeping the panels uncluttered and easy to follow. For example, the motion of a car chase and an aerial maneuver by the French pilots and parachutists is not stifled by too much detail, or alternatives, by not enough. Lau experiments with panel placement and size and is not afraid to incorporate white space to further the action on the page.  Bowland has a variety of dialogue types to contend with – television coverage, translation of an exchange in a foreign language, along with the typical dialogue of characters in the various scenes. He makes clear demarcations of the various dialogues via his lettering techniques that are clean and crisp. Nunes sticks with a palette of muted blues, greens, and browns that compliment Lau’s work beautifully and gives a serious undertone to the series.

Typical of Dynamite, they have offered up readers five “regular” cover styles from the some of the industry’s top artists including Francisco Francavilla (writer/artist of the recent noir series, The Black Beetle) and Jae Lee (cover artist of Stephen King’s Dark Tower: Gunslinger Born series). Francavilla and Jason Ullmeyer’s covers spotlight the agent story while Johnny Desjadins cover highlights the French pilots storyline. While at the moment, it would seem that Lee’s cover takes a decidedly sexy tone rather than focus on any of the storylines at all. In addition, Dynamite offered up exclusive, incentive, and ultra limited cover art for the few fortunate collectors out there.

Dynamite treats readers to several cover choices

Codename Action can be found at your local comic book shop for $3.99 and is a six-issue series from Dynamite.


  1. I really love the Jae Lee cover. The stocking covered leg is really sexy.

    The cover with the vintage (or replicated?) Captain Action figurine is hilarious. Since the toy back in the day was designed to wear the costumes of other super heroes, I wonder if that elements was incorprated into this comic - but instead of the hero, it's the dopplegangers of government officials that carry the torch?

    I love Dynamite Press for their comics - I have so many Army of Darkness comics. But you are correct, they go over kill on the variant covers. I mean OVERKILL. It's really hard with their other line, the cross over of Army of Darkness vs. Hack/Slash. Do I want the Templesmith cover... or this other one....


    1. Alternate covers can be interesting in so far as the vision of the particular artist that has been asked to design a cover. Personally, I picked Francavilla and Lee covers because I follow their art. Both are exceptional artists! If you notice in some of the covers, there are references to the various superheroes Captain Action could choose to dress up as - Green Hornet, Batman, etc. I liked those subtle nods. As the story, we'll see how that concept plays out. Good series so far and I'm definitely anxious to read issue two as well as see what covers are offered up? And, will they be from the same artists again, or others. Could you just imagine a Ben Templesmith cover? That would be wild!


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.