Friday, November 8, 2013

Three days of reviews part 1: "...At first, the suit was just to draw out the weirdos."

Approximately eight months ago, I decided I would scale back on trips to my local comic book shop. Not, I told myself, because my interest in the medium was waning, but because with my newly-received ipad I could switch to the electronic format and save a fair bit of money (considering how expensive my hobby is).

You know what saves even more money than switching to digital comics? Not buying digital comics.

Without the impetus to visit the shop on the days my favourite titles released, I suddenly discovered I had no compulsion to buy the digital comics. Yes, I could buy and read them any time of the day no matter where I was. Thus, I moved on to other pursuits and forgot about the comics.

This past week I visited the local shop again and bought three recently-released books. By way of making up for my lackadaisical interest in comics, I'll be reviewing all three books across the next three days.

We begin with The Fox#1 by Dean Haspiel (plotter/artist) & Mark Waid (scripter). The most difficult part of buying this comic was choosing which variant cover I wanted; each one had something I liked, but the Will Eisner-esque copy above ultimately won my $2.99. I also dig the way one of the Fox's ears bends; why don't Batman's ears bend? Do we really take him that seriously?

Mark Waid's name drew me to the project, which is a little odd when I consider how I (shameful to admit now) loathed his work in the 1990s, especially his scripting. Even now, I would say if I had to choose between Mark Waid the plotter and Mark Waid the scripter, I would pick the former. Regardless, considering the work he's done in recent years to revive calcified characters like Daredevil and the Green Hornet, I was willing to see him tackle another long-ignored super hero property. Haspiel's art was the tipping point - as soon as I saw Fox's bent ear in the promotional images I suspected this was a super hero book for me - something light and adventurous which didn't take itself too seriously (ala Lee & Ditko's Spider-Man).

As it transpires, my instincts were correct. "Public Face," the lead story in the Fox#1, doesn't bother with any made-for-TV origin retellings - we join our hero fully-formed and in action. The most devoted to the hero's origin is this handy recap (appearing on the inside cover, first page and back cover): "Paul Patton was a photo-journalist who couldn't seem to find the story. So Paul donned the costume of the Fox to make the story come to him. Now the story won't stop." A back-up feature explains the publishing history of the Fox character and is the only place where it's mentioned our hero is the son of the 1940s Fox. It's just not relevant to the story contained within.

We learn only so much about Paul through the course of the story - he's a photo-journalist who prefers film-loaded cameras; he's married, but has a (seeemingly grown) daughter from a previous marriage; although he's devoted to his wife, he can be tempted by a pretty face; oh, and he dresses up in tights when it's time for a fight.

Happily, the Fox#1 breaks from the staid tradition of many contemporary super hero comics where stories simply tease action. Haspiel & Waid are not ashamed of setting up problems for the Fox to solve with his fists and further, aren't too proud to make these fights seem clever and fun. Through the main feature of this book, the Fox faces the diabolical Madame Satan, leading to an altercation with two henchmen of another villain, Mr. Smile, then sets up a cliffhanger involving a character called Queen of Diamonds. Along the way there's also a terrific burn at the expense of the film Man of Steel.

This isn't even the whole comic - your $2.99 wins you an 18-page main adventure plus a 6-page back-up "A Picture Lasts Longer" where the Fox faces a living house. Also included is a 2-page editorial by Haspiel and the aforementioned 1-page history of the Fox. Further, the only advertisements in the comic are house ads, found in the back of the book.

Although the first story is rousing good fun, the second story is awfully cramped. The Fox faces a living house and tricks it into destroying itself. So much is compressed into so few pages that even one more page might have helped to better establish what the threat is (the explanation of the house being alive is derived from a single narrative caption by the Fox, who's just guessing at what he's facing).

Haspiel & Waid's Fox is projected to run only five issues. Between the unrestrained energy of Haspiel's storytelling and the smooth dialogue contributed by Waid, I was quite happy with this first issue. It should be good fun experiencing the rest!

No comments: