Tuesday, June 7, 2011
Book Review: Phoenix Force #1 Argentine Deadline
I was never as much a fan of Phoenix Force as I was of Able Team in my youth. There wasn't any one thing in particular to put my finger on, but that's just the way it was. I read more Able titles, and maybe the greater exposure helped. Either way, I wanted to start from the beginning in each series and begin reading them to see how each progressed and developed. So, I thought I'd start with Phoenix Force. My review of Able Team #1: Tower of Terror will appear in the inaugural issue of Hatchet Force Journal later this month.
Unlike the members of Able Team, who all came into association with each other through Don Pendleton's Executioner stories, Phoenix Force meets for the very first time in chapter 4 of Argentine Deadline. Following the usual pattern for Gold Eagle titles, both PF and AT, the crisis develops in the first couple of chapters, and then the main characters become involved. Although that's usually okay when you know who they are going to be, doing this for the first PF title, when we've never met the characters before as we had with Able Team, seems a little weird to me.
This is coupled with the way the team is introduced. There's about two dozen pages of "You're all the best, and we want you to do all this secret stuff. If you don't want to, bye. Oh, and even though you JUST met, there are people who need saving in just a couple of days or they are all dead, and it's entirely up to you. No pressure or nothin'".
I know we need to get the story moving along, but having Phoenix Force go from never having met each other before to working together in the field twenty-four hours later just doesn't work for me. No real-world anti-terrorist organization would throw together a team of five different men from five different countries, two of whom get into a brawl five minutes into their introductions, without weeks if not months of training and acclimation to each other's methods and abilities.
What further drags the book down is that, in order to give each individual some spotlight time, each member of the team immediately splits off once in-country, so we can dedicate a chapter or two to their abilities and point of view. A noble effort, but it also wastes the entire middle third of the book, and most of the "action" is at most a paragraph or two. Two of the characters also immediately get their asses kicked, which further complicates the plot, as one needs to be rescued and the other spends a whole chapter dealing with a bad blow to the head. It's an enormous waste of paper in my opinion, and having them alone and not interacting with each other means less inter-character devlopment, which is so critical to these sorts of "kill team" type books.
To further frustrate matters, I found the plot of this book needlessly complicated, and just kind of boring. Some Americans get kidnapped while on an "academic retreat" - who takes an academic retreat to Argentina? Apparently their last retreat was in NYC; maybe they should have gone to Vegas instead. It's also pointed out that none of them have any money or collatoral to be ransomed with, something the kidnappers screwed up on (they were mistaken for "wealthy American business people"). Apparently this bunch of academic paupers could still find the cash to fly down to another continent to have their meeting.
All in all, this book is a little weak for a "#1". However, it's worth reading if you are a fan of the Gold Eagle titles, as it's the first in its series and helps lay the ground work and backstory for the other characters. I still definitely think it could have been handled better. I'm reading the first Able Team book now, and the quality is considerably higher - it helps tremendously that Pendleton had already fleshed out the characters and established their working dynamics before the series began.
You can probably pick up Argentine Deadline for a few bucks off of an Amazon retailer. If you're interested in these titles, pass on the next iced mocha, and spend the cabbage on a couple of these instead. They make for great back-pocket summer reading.
Buy Argentine Deadline Phoenix Force #1 Through Amazon Here.