Hey, do you remember LucasArts? You know, LucasArts, the video game wing of all things George Lucas. Well unless you are old or a giant nerd, you might not realize that long before The Mouse shut it down for being lame, LucasArts made some pretty cool games, and not just Star Wars, either. Well, the games that stuck out to me the most were the adventure games: Sam and Max, The Day of The Tentacle, the Monkey Island series. And, of course, Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis. Man, that was a fun game, full of globetrotting investigation, action, puzzle-solving, and anti-Nazi propaganda (which is not to say the Nazis didn't have it coming – damn Nazis.)
Any road, it was a great game chock full of replay value, what with three different game modes and multiple endings. Problem was, when I moved from my childhood home to try my hand at college, and then the real world, I didn't get to take the game with me! And so, I never got the shot to try and finish it more than once. Well, that was a long time ago, and the damn thing won't even work on modern PC's. Well, not in anyway I know of. Dark Horse to the rescue. Sorta.
You see, unbeknownst to me Dark Horse published a comic book adaptation, a miniseries that ran three acts in four issues in 1991. The first time I knew about it was a few months ago when I spotted the TPB (from '92) at Game Time, our local comic shop turned game shop, which does a sideline selling off some old comics from its previous life. And so, after many years of not knowing what I was missing, I had the chance to dig into a little-sung adventure of everyone's favourite fake archaeologist.The story gets off to a great start, taking us to meet a 1939 Indy: thrill as he teaches! Of course, it is not long before Adventure sings her sultry, dangerous tune. In this case, a man comes a-calling, asking about an odd and lonesome artifact from the Jastro Expedition, a dig in Iceland that Indy had been on as a youth. One ransacking later, Mr. Jones is off to the city that never sleeps. It seems a fellow former student and 'Jastro' alum, Sophia Hapgood, has given up archaeology to be a fortune teller, guided by the 'spirit' of Nur-Ab-Sal. It is hard for Indy to determine what he is more disappointed with: Sophia's 'charlatan' ways or her insistence that Atlantean artifacts even exist. This latter complaint takes a back seat as Indy and Sophia find themselves in a race, and sometimes chase, across the globe – and against the Nazis – to visit the other 'Jastro' fellows. And all along the way, they acquire such strange artifacts that Indy must concede that Atlantis is very real. All this is very much like the video game (story by Hal Barwood and Noah Falstsein). So much so, that the writers/adapters William Messner-Loebs (Issue #1), Dan Barry (Issues #2-3), and Mike Richardson (Issue #4), seem to have not felt the need to write the whole story. Now, as I said before, the TPB starts great, giving us a wonderful intro to the heroes and the villains, and leading us into the stories about Atlantis, both legends and impressions. Indy and Sophia, and even Marcus Brody, have a time to shine there, but once they leave Iceland, well, things get weird. All the stops and plot points from the game are in the comic, but there are huge chunks just missing.
Now, the game is a puzzle-based, investigative adventure game, and large bits of it are reserved for the rooting and digging about that those types of games offer. Understandably, these moments do not make for the best in your comic book reading. But, many of the puzzles are just missing from the TPB. There are huge bits of the story that are just left out – or alluded to – and by the time Indy and Sophia discover the Lost City, they have all this stuff, and they just know how to use it to get inside. The third act slows up again, and we are able to follow the events in the Lost City as they “happen.”
And that is what makes it such a strange TPB. The intro section is a great pace, and we get a lot more a chance to feel ourselves fit into the events. Then—WHAM!—the story races along, and the reader is just left behind. Until the end. And the end is handled as well, if not better than the end of the game. I imagine this is largely due to the intricate difficulties of adaptation and of the sort of “creation by committee” that the project seemed to have going for it. I would be tempted to suggest that you just play the game (available on STEAM), excepting two things: The first act is much more fulfilling, and the art, by the team of Dan Barry and Karl Kesel, with luscious colors by Lurene Haines, is really something. Dan Barry took over all the art chores for the final issue, and, sadly, you can tell. But the whole is still worth checking out. Especially if you can find it in the QuarterBin.
- Firstly, can we all just celebrate the fact that because of this special, comedic greats Art Carney, Bea Arthur, and Harvey Korman are all part of the Star Wars canon? Now, I know that since Disney bought Lucasfilms, the Star Wars canon is kind of messed up, but what they say doesn’t really matter. In the heads of the fans, the extended universe is still roughly canon somewhere, and in that canon, Art Carney, Bea Arthur, and Harvey Korman.
- On the flipside, though, if we acknowledge that, we have to acknowledge that Jefferson Starship also exists within Star Wars continuity. I have nothing personal against Jefferson Starship, I guess, but I don’t really dig the tunes they lay down. The song they perform on the special, “Light the Sky on Fire” is about as boring as it gets in late 1970s rock music.
- There's also a really, really odd musical sequence starring veteran actress, Diahann Carroll, in which she plays a holographic "fantasy" enjoyed by Itchy, in what can only be described as, uh, well, disturbing. It isn't that I don't want to see an old wookiee get aroused, it's just that I, well, yeah, no, it's totally that I don't want to see that.
- The film features an animated sequence, which serves to introduce the character of Boba Fett. It’s an amazing piece of animation, and truly the best part of this special. It’s also the only piece of the special to ever receive a home video release as a special feature on the 2011 Blu-Ray release of the original trilogy.
- The empire actually feels menacing in this special. I mean, in Episode IV, they are certainly menacing. They blow up an entire planet, for Lumpy’s sake, but I don’t know. Maybe it’s because so much of what they do is off-screen. We never see them kill Owen and Beru, or torture Leia, or anything else. It’s all alluded to through the aftermath. We do see them blow up Alderaan, but even that is on a viewport, far-removed from any sort of engaging connection. In this special, however, they directly interact on-screen with members of the rebellion, and there’s definitely a troubling dynamic there. When a stormtrooper threatens to beat a Wookiee child, it’s disconcerting to say the least.
- Thankfully, this special finally gave some lyrics to some of those classic Star Wars tunes we all know and love. Ackmena sings a lovely tribute to alcoholism called “Goodnight, but Not Goodbye” set to the music of the Mos Eisley cantina band. At the end of the special, Leia closes us out with a musical tribute to Life Day, set to the Star Wars theme. I don’t know about you, but I’ll definitely be singing these lyrics the next time I watch the movie.