Thursday, November 3, 2016

"The older I get, the dumber I feel." The Fox #1-5 review

Last year Archie Comics published a new five-issue mini-series by Dean Haspiel & Mark Waid featuring their long-time super hero the Fox. I reviewed Haspiel & Waid's first mini-series some time ago and enjoyed it quite a bit, but the situation at Archie changed a bit between the two series. This new Fox series ("Fox Hunt") was branded as being part of "Dark Circle Comics" (rather than the Red Circle brand their super heroes traditionally have appeared under). Dark Circle is an attempt to create mature readers comics because when you think Archie, obviously you think mature readers. The previous series was good all-ages fun; how do Haspeil & Waid adapt to this new reality?

Previously, Waid had said he would have wanted to explore a father-son dynamic in the series if he had been plotting; evidently that put a bug in Haspiel's ear as he made much of this series a family story about Paul Patton Jr (the Fox), his son (Ghost Fox) and his wife (She-Fox). Like the previous story, Haspiel has a bit of fun playing around with previous Archie super hero comics, digging up old enemies from their obscure past appearances. This time the "freak magnet" Fox finds himself targeted by the financier Mister Smile, who hires a score of super-criminals to kill the Fox.

Perhaps the most surprising appearances amongst the criminals were two from Archie's Shadow comics! If you recall my series "Bitter Fruit" you may well remember Radiation Rogue and Elasto; both villains are back in this series as Archie evidently owns them, not Street & Smith (why would Street & Smith want ownership of those comics?).

It's unfortunate that Archie's decision to render all of their super heroes as mature readers titles affected this book as I feel Haspiel would have been much happier keeping the previous all ages tone; his art is clean and bright and the tone is mostly very jocular, but there is profanity and gore thrown in to justify the mandate - as if anyone ever said "you'll like this comic, it has swearing and a guy who bursts through someone's chest."

More significantly, the story leads up a confrontation with the main villain who is relentless in his determination to bring down the Fox and his family; to keep Ghost Fox from killing Mr. Smile, She-Fox kills the villain herself. It's a tough moment which is at odds with much of the book's tone - I mean, one page after the horribly scarred She-Fox snaps the villain's neck then collapses we have the Fox and Ghost Fox fighting a living tree. How much better to seek out something bright and fun - because frankly, the "super heroes and killing" dilemma hasn't progressed at all since the days of Claremont's Wolverine. It's a minor speedbump in an otherwise clever and fun comic book series.

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