Captain Action: Hearts of the Rising Sun by Jim Beard, Airship 27, p/b, £10.22/Kindle, £3.09/pdf, $3.00 (from website)
Reviewed by David Brzeski
I really enjoyed Captain Action: Riddle of the Glowing Men, so I’d been looking forward to this sequel. This time, Jim Beard takes Miles Benson Drake, better known as Captain Action, to Tokyo, where “The A.C.T.I.O.N. Experiment”, the Japanese sister organisation to “The A.C.T.I.O.N. Directive” are based. His counterpart at “The A.C.T.I.O.N. Experiment” is Hokori Tarakada, AKA: Captain Spirit. Tarakada had trained with Drake, but they had not parted on the best of terms. Jim Beard does a fine job here of highlighting the differences in culture & outlook which causes the two heroes to clash.
Some British readers may wince slightly at the cheesy posh British accent Drake adopts while disguised as Dr. Jessup Malcolm. One has to remember though, that this story is set in that classic sixties pop culture reality, where upper class Brits did use words like, “bally”. Jim Beard is actually being quite clever by having Drake adopt that idiosyncratic speech pattern for his Malcolm identity.
Another way in which Jim Beard has been exceptionally clever is in the way he manages to reference one of the main features of the toy that the books are based on. The Captain Action doll could be accessorised with costumes for several different heroes of comics & film. In one scene, Drake breaks into a building in a suspiciously familiar seeming costume. Even his methods are similar to that of the Batman. It isn’t, of course. The copyright owners would come down on them like a ton of bricks. No, it’s actually a pulp contemporary of the Batman’s—The Black Bat—who guest stars in the book in his other identity of Tony Quinn, who has retired to Japan.
The other regulars are back too. Doctor Evil, inevitably; Sean ‘Action Boy’ Barrett & Uliana Ulanova. Drake’s relationship with Uliana is somewhat complicated by the addition of the beautiful and deadly Suru Kagawa. I’m growing to like Drake’s immediate boss, Major General Harlan James Weston, more and more as the series progresses.
As before, A.C.T.I.O.N. has a bit of an U.N.C.L.E. crossed with T.H.U.N.D.E.R. vibe. I’d love to see the author work on either, or both of those properties at some point.
The cover, by Michael Youngblood, is pretty good. However, it was the interior illustrations by Ron Davis that I really liked—not because they were stand out beautiful as such, but because they spot on captured the feel of those second-string comic book artists of the 60s. The ones who may never have become revered superstars of the medium, like Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko and Neal Adams, but produced a huge body of solid work.
I enjoyed the book—perhaps not quite as much as I did the first volume, but no author can make every book the best he’s ever written. I recommend it to fans of classic adventure fiction and 60s comics and TV shows.