Posted August 17, 2013 by Alvin Minon in Comics

COMIC BOOK REVIEW: The Thrilling Adventure Hour

I haven’t seen the classic “The Thrilling Adventure Hour” nor have I heard of any of its stories before. But this book from Archaia Entertainment under the Black Label line made me look it up and learn more. This hardcover that offers Ben Acker and Ben Blacker‘s stories gave me a bunch of impressions, ranging from heavy laughter to being caught up in thought and amusement.

Flipping through the first few pages, I noticed that the art’s remarkable and really does take you back to 70’s and earlier. I’d say the wide array of artists that worked on this book, such as Chris Moreno, Tom Fowler, Jeff Stokely, Jordie Bellair, Evan Shaner and others, nailed it as the original live audio theater of The Thrilling Adventure Hour is supposed to be  follow old time radio style. Upon writing this review, I’ve just decided to jot my thoughts down separately for each story. The story and artworks differed and could stand out on their own but nevertheless, they bonded well to form a fun to read book.


Sparks Nevada: Marshal on Mars

Fell in love instantly with this opening story. Randy Bishop‘s artwork here reminded me of some Disney or Warner Bros. work, plus the fact that Nevada’s story is set in a Wild West themed Mars landscape. Seriously, Nevada, Red Plains Rider and Croach the Tracker look like the gang of Woody, Jesse and Buzz Lightyear in Toy Story. The idea of a wild Mars filled with aliens and robots easily took my interest and the art even made it easier as the pages are all vibrant and dynamic.


Phillip Fathom: Deep Sea Detective

Really loved the narration here. I could totally picture this story as one of those noir drama or classic detective tales where the adventure’s narrated from a third person’s perspective. Jeff Stokely’s art plus Andre May’s colors gave me the
impression that Phillip Fathom could easily pass as Aquaman’s son filling in Batman’s shoes. There’s the sense of grittiness
without losing the light comic feeling. Fathom interacts with a bunch of humorous characters such as Captain Laserbeam so it
can’t really be that dark. I still wonder how Fathom keeps his trenchcoat fixed though even after spending most of his time
drenched. He even leaves behind puddles so I bet his shoes can’t look that great.


The Cross-Time Adventures of Colonel Tick-Tock

With Moreno doing the art and Heidi Arnhold on the colors, the time-travelling Englishman’s story looked like one of those comic strips you see on Sunday newspaper or at the back of a cereal box. I liked the dialogues and I could totally hear Colonel’s accent behind my head whenever he talks. Oh and the cavemen look like they jumped right out of a Flintstones episode as if they’re all about laughter but actually they have a bit of complexity behind their backs. It’s all fun and energetic but I guess the level of cartoon here’s just not for my age range.


Captain Laserbeam

Whatever I said regarding Colonel Tick-Tock being not for my age range, I’d like to take them back and put it all here. Imagine a hybrid between Green Lantern and Popeye, plus a little of Captain Planet and voila, you get Captain Laserbeam! He even has his own pack of middle school Adventurekateers! Couldn’t say I really got into this story, but like I mentioned before, perhaps it’s just that it’s not for my age range. If Captain Laserbeam’s really supposed to be like this, all Popeye-y with tons of “Whack!” and “Bam!”, then Lar deSouza nailed it since I could picture myself enjoying this part, had I been a five to ten year old kid.


Cactoid Jim: King of the Martian Frontier

Those Murdermen really gave me some headache. Murdermen! Man-murdered! Murder-manned! They’re like a pack of terminators programmed to mention their names repeatedly like Pokemon and make puns out of them. I’m guessing not much has been invested into Cactoid Jim in this book as the story doesn’t really involve that much development or action, it’s just Jim sporting his jetpack and guns and outsmarting a bunch of villains. Evan Shaner‘s art made the character look cool though. If it’s him on the pencils, then I’d wish to see more of Jim’s jetpack swooping and gunslinging action.


Jefferson Reid: Ace American

It could totally work as some World War II propaganda comic though ala wartime Captain America. There’s even a Nazi spy plus some sidekick action ala Bucky! Kinda sad that this one features the death of a teenage sidekick though, again, ala Bucky. Evan Larson‘s art fit the role and the story’s still fun but I couldn’t say Reid would stand out or even take a major role in the comic or in the show itself.


Tales of the USSA (United Solar System Alliance)

It’s like Star Trek minus tons of geekiness and more chuckles. The story’s all good and they could really build some heavy material here. Natalie Nourigat surprised me a little bit here. Out of nowhere, in a story that’s filled with jokes and laughter, there’s suddenly a gory murder scene! And when I say gory, it’s the r-13 kind had it not been for the art style that lets it pass easily and could even go unnoticed for some readers.


Down in Moonshine Holler

The two might seem to be a Tom Sawyer-Huck Finn duo but I’ve never before encountered a story such as the adventure of hobos Bajo Bindlestuff and his mentor Gummy. Even though they’re vagrants, I could envy the duo’s adventures given the sights they see and adventures they take. Joanna Estep provided some art that takes advantage of Bajo and Gummy’s wandering and train-hopping. And it’s all evident in more than a couple of pages where the panels boast of some mesmerizing scenery and nostalgic village views.


Amelia Earhart, Fearless Flyer

Nazi brain-in-a-jar villain, an experimented plane-piloting Yeti and a crew of singing pirates. Turns out that Amelia Earhart faked her disappearance so that she could become a time-travelling one-woman air-force! This is the second story in the book that deals with time travel and I’d say I enjoyed this one more than the previous tale. Joel Priddy on art and Casey Crowe on colors made the story bright and look more fast-paced even if it talks about sea travel and Nazi warfare. There’s even a “Where’s Waldo” page that not only presented a nice in-comic game but also on its own narrated the busy life of a pirate ship captain on deck and definitely portrayed the type of character Amelia Earhart is.


Beyond Belief

The last story but definitely not the least. If I were to put an analogy to it, the Doyles could really be a mash of the Waynes and Addams Family, while sorting out mysteries and get mixed up with a mob war while a Romeo and Juliet story unfolds behind the scenes. For me this one’s the best story in the book and definitely the best way to wrap the book up, with a healthy mix of character depth and comedy and action. Plus the art’s up a notch too! At first I thought my favorite artwork in this book would be Randy Bishop’s in the opening story but Fowler‘s pencils and Jordie Bellaire‘s colors contested that. There’s intricate detailing done here, evident in the first page itself where Frank and Sadie Doyles’ luxurious lifestyle is highlighted. And we get to see more of that in the next few pages when the story jumps from the Doyle Manor to Lord Eamon Darkley’s pub.

The Thrilling Adventure Hour brought me laughs and tons of vintage feels. I’ve stated the ups and downs of the stories individually but I’d say all of them I enjoyed reading. Not only that, I also enjoyed the bits of extras between the stories. We get some pages that look like vintage posters and I really had to check every nook and cranny for tidbits of  news and stories within the Adventure Hour universe. Again as I have said, I know none about the show but this book made me want to check it out, perhaps browse for an episode or something. After all, if the comics had all these fun stories  collected together, what more could I expect from the tag team of Acker and Blacker? This book could really work out for another volume, another collection of stories. And if that would really be the case, then no doubt I’d get myself a copy of that one and see more of Sparks Nevada, Captain Laserbeam and all the other characters.

As Sadie Doyle puts it: “To future empty glasses! To the perfect toast!”

Alvin Minon