As the summer draws to a close, there's time to squeeze in just one more blockbuster, and this one's got it all; action, adventure, exotic locales, fisticuffs and swordplay. Ninth Art goes global with THE INTERMAN.
22 August 2003

Writer/Artist: Jeff Parker
Colourists: Jill Powell, Jeff Parker, with Clydene Nee
Price: $19.95
Publisher: Octopus
ISBN: 0-9725553-0-7

Y'all remember TINTIN, right? Virtually every library had a big wall of TINTIN albums in their children's section. They were big, colourful volumes that took the eponymous protagonist around the world (and, on one occasion, off it), all the while surrounding him with a cast of colourful characters. But there were only so many volumes, and only so many times you could reread 'Red Rackham's Treasure', or 'The Crab with the Golden Claws'. And besides, you were getting older, anyway. How was TINTIN supposed to fit into your world now?

Meet THE INTERMAN, aka Tintin for Grownups.

THE INTERMAN is the first in a planned series of full-colour adventure albums by Jeff Parker, an artist best known for his DC and Malibu work (as well as his always entertaining convention reports at Parkerspace, often co-produced with fellow artist Steve Lieber, who provides art assists for one section of this book). THE INTERMAN combines the wit and scope of a TINTIN album with the darker, denser narrative of a spy thriller and the over-the-top action of the cinema to create the comic equivalent of a really good "beach read".

The titular "Interman" is Van Meach, the product of one of those top secret government experiments to create a superhuman that never quite work out. The sole success of said project, Van has the ability to adapt to any environment, enabling him to survive everything from underwater submersion to electrocution. Opponents of stem cell research, take note...

Van, long since lost in government paperwork and relatively well adjusted for a top-secret rogue government-created superhuman, travels the world as a free agent, making good money taking on the tasks that normal men would not dare attempt. Unfortunately, the government has got the impression that he's also working as an assassin and possible perpetrator of an international incident. Which means Van finds himself the target of a small army of well-trained assassins, starting a chase that will cover most of the known world, dredge up the secrets of Van's past, and reveal that he may not be as alone as he once thought he was.

There's a fundamental intelligence at work in THE INTERMAN that elevates it above most goofy-but-fun action books. Van Meach isn't some grim, embittered avenger of justice, but a likable, relatable guy trying to survive in a world that won't leave him alone. The government spooks are fairly nice guys themselves, and their motivations for tracking Van down fairly understandable.

Even the assassins tracking Van aren't merely faceless opponents; in one entertaining sequence, we're informed of their backgrounds and why they're so deadly; a move that both rounds out their characters and adds to the tension. And even the book's main villain is granted a tragic, human dimension, providing a degree of pathos for the book's climax.

The world of THE INTERMAN is made all the more believable by Parker's clean artwork, which strikes just the right balance between realism and cartoon. Considering the tale involves five continents and about a half-dozen narrators, it could easily have spun out of control, but Parker takes advantage of the storytelling possibilities allowed by the colour artwork and larger album format to keep the story clear and fast-paced.

Unlike most graphic novels, THE INTERMAN is equal parts graphics and novel, with plenty of panels and dialogue on every page; the story is even broken up into "chapters", a help considering this is a work that most people won't read in one sitting. It's one of the few books where it's actually worth spending a few minutes on each page, both to follow the story and to take in all the activity on the page.

The tale makes use of some of the most scenic locations on Earth, and takes full advantage of this; it's a pleasant surprise to see a comic that actually features cameos by the likes of an Indian elephant and a Galapagos tortoise. The layouts range from the elegant to the gonzo, going from simple three-tiered grids, to pages packed with panels, flashbacks, montages and the like... all while somehow managing to maintain a comprehensible narrative.

THE INTERMAN is filled with extraordinary characters, locations, chase scenes and fights, and even has a few explosions thrown in for good measure. It's worth it just for the goofy smile that'll sneak across your face as you read it, savouring every new cliffhanging peril, every new little twist as you go. It's the same smile you felt while reading those TINTIN albums all those years ago.

An online preview of THE INTERMAN is available at

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