I picked up the first issue of the Dark Horse comic book adaptation of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull before I had a chance to see the movie. And then, a few days later at Costco, I saw the novelization of the film so I picked that up too.
Since I hadn't seen the film version of the story yet, I resisted the temptation to peek into either the novel or the comic book versions.
I did eventually go see the film (a few weeks after it was released and in a surprisingly still crowded theater) and read the comic version immediately after. After reading the comic book adaptation, I started the novel and finished a couple of weeks later (not because it's that long or a difficult read, I just don't spend that much time reading these days).
"So," you ask, "how do the story told in three different mediums compare? Are they completely different stories?"
No. They're exactly the same stories...they just each go into different levels of detail. The comic adaptation, surprisingly, actually skips a lot of the scenes from the film and doesn't bring anything new to the table. So, of the three, it was the least fulfilling...but the covers of the two-issue series were very well done (and Dark Horse has gone forward with another new Indiana Jones adventure with equally well-done covers, so that's good news).
The movie version - which has to be considered the baseline version of the story, since it's the version everyone will be familiar with - isn't my favorite Indiana Jones story ever, but I liked it better than The Temple of Doom (which has never felt like a true "Indiana Jones" movie to me) because it includes all the essential (to my mind) Indiana Jones elements: puzzle solving, treasure hunting, resentful natives, exotic locales, and hints of government conspiracy. If not for the Area 51 angle, it would have been a perfect movie.
Not that I'm against stories/movies involving the Roswell/Area 51 angle (I did buy all the seasons of Roswell when they were put on DVD)...it's just not an Indiana Jones thing. Atlantis, maybe...but ET? It just doesn't seem like the right fit. And speaking of ET, this movie left an interesting impression on me - it was like American Graffiti meets Close Encounters of the First Kind meets Indiana Jones.
So that leaves me with the novelization of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, which was my favorite of the three versions. Why? Because without the special effects, the story did feel an awful lot like a real Indiana Jones story. And it didn't start with kids racing across the desert in a 1950's hot rod. It started in 1546 with Francisco de Orlellana. We get to experience first hand what happened to the explorer/looter/despoiler in the Yucatan Peninsula. And then we jump forward 450 years to Indiana Jones exploring the same site in 1957 and the events that leads up to Indiana being dumped in front of the hangar in Area 51 (and the aforementioned cheesy hot rod racing across the desert from the film).
It's 330 page to the same ending, but there are several questions answered along the way. A few that stand out are a pretty lengthy explanation of the Spalko character's background, an explanation for why Mutt is able to hold his own against Spalko's fencing abilities, and the descent into the pyramid - which I don't remember as a pyramid in the film version - that is much more detailed and seems to encompass a lot more territory and exploration.
Even with the story being more fully-fleshed, it still doesn't explain all of the head-scratchers from the movie. Like "how were these cars able to race through the jungle without the lawnmower/deforester clearing their path?" or "how did Spalko get into the temple with the stairs retracted?" Complaints aside, the author of the novelization did do a good job. If you're a fan of the Indiana Jones character, the book will probably satisfy you more than the movie will (or did).
Where's the Comic Book Love?
You'd think, with my admitted love for comic books in my once-a-year-Comiccon rant that proclaim my love for the medium, that I'd have more to say on the subject throughout the rest of the year. And, for the record, I do pay a weekly visit to my local comic shop, Artifex, which gives me a discount on every issue I buy because I'm a subscriber to about twenty titles (all but a few of which are from independent publishers).
Every now and then, I do read a comic worthy of my adulation, but even then...I just don't write about it. And so, as I was pondering this disparity in my super-boring-news-reporting, I decided the reason for this is probably pretty simple. I blather on about books (every now and then) because it takes me days or weeks to get throug them. A comic book takes me a few (if uninterrupted) minutes. A really good comic book may take me a little longer, but not always. So I just don't put in the time to write about something that - even though it tooks its creators a lot of time and effort to create - is so quickly concumable by me.
That being said, I heard about a comic book at the Comiccon that Mike Kunkel was doing for DC (I think Kandrix or Laurie B mentioned it) that I hadn't seen yet: Billy Batson and the Magic of Shazam (actually, I only heard about the "Shazam" part of the title at the Con, it wasn't until Kelley at Artifex gave me his hold copy of the comic that I saw the full title). Mike Kunkel is an awesome illustrator and storyteller who's probably best known for his Herobear and the Kid comics. My kids know him for the Land of Sockmunster book he did a few years ago, the art for which is very similar to the new Shazam book.
This is probably my favorite series of panels from the first issue of the Shazam comic.
The expressions on his characters' faces are priceless.
Maybe, if I feel the urge, I'll mention some of my other favorite reads in the future (the Shazam comic was just one of about ten issues I picked up that week, so I could have really bored your socks off, if I had felt the urge). And speaking of boring your socks off, there's super-exciting fish tank news (another one bit the dust) and might even be another thing or two worth mentioning...if I can get around to it.