"Squad? I'm sorry, Prime Minister... but who said anything about a squad?"
Meet Action Man, Britain's one-bloke answer to G.I. Joe. The latest of the Action Man program that's served the country since the reign of Elisabeth I, he's trained to the highest levels in all fields to operate in situations where a full team would be impractical: a master of fighting, communication, and disguise, a 10th level Judo black belt, a member of Mensa, and a three-star Michelin chef.
Now, Ian Noble — a young man and former member of Action Man's support team — has been selected to become the new Action Man, and must train to reach his full potential as Britain's hero while also pursuing clues against Doctor X, the villain responsible for the death of his predecessor.
Action Man is a 2016 comic book written by John Barber and published by IDW Publishing, released to tie into both IDW's Revolution event and the 50th anniversary of the Action Man toy, that reimagines the British hero as a James Bond-esque super spy to tie back to the character's military origins. Though taking on a Darker and Edgier tone than the TV shows that came before it, it still doesn't take itself too seriously: the first two issues involve Guernesey Independence terrorists, a German wearing powered armor who calls people "pillocks", and our hero crashing a train into Shepreth Wildlife Park.
As a Hasbro licensed property, the comic is part of the Hasbro Comic Universe, and crossed over with the other series as part of Revolution. As a limited series, that means it ends at that point, too, after four issues and a Revolution one-shot. However, Action Man continued on as one of the main characters in the crossover title Revolutionaries, with Doctor X appearing as a villain.
- Ask a Stupid Question...:Ian: "Control, I'm on the bomb. What do I do? Cut the blue wire or something?"
Bryce: "How would I know what kind of wires they used? This is potentially not a regulation dirty bomb."
- Beehive Barrier: Part of Action Man's standard equipment. Doctor X also uses one.
- Beethoven Was an Alien Spy: Christopher Marlowe was the first Action Man, and Victor Hugo was a director of the Action Man program.
- Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Agent Gale is Doctor X.
- Black Boss Lady: Director Bestley, Action Man's superior.
- Body Horror: The doorman's flesh seems to be falling off his skeleton, and Professor Gangrene's skin is green and mutilated.
- By "No", I Mean "Yes": Ian explains to Mercy that he's not eating alone, because that would be pathetic. See, he's not actually eating... alone.
- Call-Forward: At the end of issue 4, Doctor X is shown to be working with Storm Shadow, and mentions Baron Ironblood, as a lead-in to the new Revolutionaries series.
- The Cameo: The female ninja working for Doctor X is revealed to be the new Storm Shadow.
- Car Fu: Well, more like Jet-Ski-Fu; to bypass the Governor's Island security, Ian fills a jet-ski with octaazacubane and crashes it into the building while somersaulting over the wall.
- Chekhov's Skill: Early in issue 2, Ian is seen stealing a government employee's ID card to get into the Action Man facilities. Later in the issue, Salmons realizes that Ian's stolen his ID card to get out of being confined to quarters.
- Clothes Make the Superman: Action Man's power suit, which is - somehow - capable of providing air to a rebreather without an oxygen tank.
- Continuity Nod:
- Director Bestley mentions that Action Man is intended to operate in situations where a team like Joe Colton's would be impractical.
- In issue 2, Ian has a poster of the Misfits on his wall.
- Multiple characters mention the Cybertronian invasion.
- In issue 4, Agent Gale namechecks Cobra, the Coil and the Machination.
- Cybernetics Eat Your Soul: Professor Gangrene, apparently, had his sense of humor surgically removed.
- Cynical Mentor: Agent Terrence Salmons, who's putting Ian through Training from Hell partly out of belief that he didn't deserve the Action Man role as much as Salmons did.
- Deadpan Snarker: Ian cracks a lot of jokes during mission briefings.Ian: "Ah. So I'm to subdue the tourists and save the terrorists? Or vice versa?"
- Dead Person Impersonation: Thanks to Doctor X's subordinates being unaware of his true identity and the British government not realising that he had died, Agent Gale was able to take over his identity.
- Did Not Do the Bloody Research: Some of the language used is rather dissonant with the PG-13 action of the comic.
- Foregone Conclusion: The preview to Revolution #1, released a few days before this comic, revealed that Salmons survived being shot by Doctor X.
- Gilligan Cut: Four years ago, Ian refuses to answer a Train Problem on the basis that his life's going to be about more than train schedules. Cut to the present, where he's having to stop two trains from crashing into each other.Ian: "Bollocks."
- Good Scars, Evil Scars: Salmons gets a scar on his head after being shot by Gale, who in turn gets an X-shaped one on her forehead, matching the one belonging to the previous Doctor X.
- Gratuitous German: Colditz, the man in the Cool Helmet who Ian ends up impersonating.
- Heroic Sacrifice: The previous Action Man, Mike Brogan.
- Insufferable Genius: Bryce Chan, the quartermaster and Ian's best friend, who's no older than he is.
- Just Between You and Me: Justified. Doctor X intends to try and recruit Action Man to her cause. Ian still manages to turn it against her, though.
- The Knights Who Say "Squee!": Ian, towards the previous Action Man.
- Legacy Character: Action Man, It has been established that the 60's and 90's versions were some that used the Action Man alias. Doctor X, too.
- Mecha-Mooks: The X-Bots, though it's unclear here if they're robots or masked humans.
- Morally Ambiguous Doctorate: Doctor X and Professor Gangrene, of course.
- Mythology Gag:
- Ian nicknames his predecessor "Eagle Eyes", after the action feature of the original toy.
- The concept of a "lineage" of previous Action Men was previously used in 2011's Unit:E, Hasbro's previous attempt at a crossover comic. There, "The Action Man" was not an agent of the UK, but an independent operator, with all the skills and knowledge of the previous Action Men being passed down to the new one. Unfortunately, the previous one had gone rogue and turned himself in that version's Doctor X, forcing a new AM to be "activated earlier than intended".
- The Action Man Programme forms the acronym AMP; the 2000 CG cartoon Action Man possessed an "AMP Factor" that allowed him to determine the best course of action in his head when triggered by adrenaline.
- The Action Man before Ian Noble was Mike Brogan, this was a pseudonym used by comic strip author Fred Baker, who wrote books starring Action Man.
- The mysterious "Baron Ironblood" mentioned at the end of issue #4? That would be the lead villain of the 1980s Action Force, which was Palitoy's attempt to copy the 1980s version of G.I. Joe with an international cast (it ended up that, after Hasbro bought out Palitoy, they "transitioned" Action Force into G.I. Joe and turned Ironblood into Cobra Commander).
- Noodle Incident: The "clone thing in Bangladesh".
- Obfuscating Stupidity: Ian tends to act the fool a lot, tying into his Deadpan Snarker attitude. For instance, he claimed he thought that Les MisÚrables was written by Andrew Lloyd Webber.
- One Riot, One Ranger: The idea behind Action Man — a single agent who can operate in situations where a team or army couldn't.
- Pungeon Master:
- Ian. Constantly.Ian: "I'm relentless when it comes to bad puns... and the pursuit of justice."
- Director Bestley gets in on it in the fourth issue. Salmons isn't amused.Salmons: "Are the puns a thing we're all doing now, Director?"
- Ian. Constantly.
- Running Both Sides: Mercy Gale does this, overseeing Action Man's operations while also acting as Doctor X.
- Samus Is a Girl: Everyone refers to Doctor X as "he"...
- Action Man's final words to Ian are "I'm happy. Hope you're happy, too." Given that the lyrics of Ashes to Ashes were a Shout-Out to Action Man in the first place, it's something of a recursive homage.
- All the issues are named after books by Colin MacInnes: To the Victors the Spoils/Absolute Beginners; England, Half English; Out of the Way; and Mr. Love & Justice.
- Slave to PR: The reason that Ian is made the new Action Man; he was very publicly the lone survivor of Action Man's final mission, essentially forcing the government to give him the role.
- Sophisticated as Hell: Colditz sure uses the word "pillock" a lot.
- Stock British Phrases: Oh yes.
- Those Wacky Nazis: The scientists working at the Chateau, supposedly. It's not made clear whether Colditz and Professor Gangrene are.
- That Man Is Dead: Doctor X claims that "Agent Gale died in the VTOL explosion"; while she's referring to her Faking the Dead, this is also the point at which she stops being referred to as Mercy Gale in favor of her codename.
- Token Evil Teammate: Bryce isn't quite evil, but he's rather self-centered and is implied to have willingly enabled his old boss's unhealthy lifestyle, which ended up killing him, in the hope of getting his job.
- Tough Love: Ian explains to Doctor X that he figured out that Salmons putting him through Training from Hell was an example of this, that showed that Salmons respected him, in contrast to Gale taking it easy on him since she underestimated him. Hilariously subverted moments later, when the revealed-to-be-alive Salmons tells Ian "For the record, I never respected you".
- Trigger-Happy: Ian tends to go in guns blazing rather than attempting non-lethal takedowns, particularly when he suspects Doctor X is involved.
- Unholy Matrimony: Colditz and the doorman. Ian's lack of knowledge of this means that his cover gets compromised in about ten seconds.
- Villains Act, Heroes React: Doctor X aims to avert this.
- We Can Rule Together: Doctor X offers this to Ian, mentioning that his predecessor would've been too honourable to do so. He doesn't take it well.
- Well-Intentioned Extremist: Mercy Gale took on the identity of Doctor X in order to make change for good, rather than just stopping the actions of enemy forces.