Thursday, March 20, 2008

Not-So-Special FX

Yesterday (Comic Book Day for the uninitiated) I picked up a copy of Wayne Osborne and John Byrne's FX from IDW Publishing. The story is a simple one we've seen before: Young Tom Talbot, for reasons as yet unknown, receives a blast of energy which gives him the power to become what he imagines. He becomes a human "special effect" (FX in Hollywood parlance) and uses his power to help capture a semi-intelligent Silverback ape (he speaks).

Again, not a sophisticated story by any means but one that isn't without its charms. Tom's naivete' and the urgings of his best friend Jack echo the relationships we've seen many times in comics (NOVA, SPIDERMAN, etc...) and that seems to be the point of this FX exercise - nostalgia. The cover art mimics 70's Marvel including the price box in the upper left corner.

The interior art is serviceable Byrne with minimal backgrounds and adequate staging. All of which is designed to recall those comics of the 60's and 70's which he built his reputation upon. The color scheme is simple mimicking the old 4-color process as well.

I really want to like this book - I REALLY WANT to - but I don't. Most of my reasons for not liking the book relate to the way the content is presented, and not necessarily the story itself. There's the rub -- I have to fault the publisher for this one.

If you are going to mimic a comic from another era, then it behooves you to adopt all of the conventions of that comic, and look to twist them somehow to benefit today's readers. In FX, there are no caption boxes, and in omitting them I believe a whole other level of story has been lost. FX could have been given a much richer and deeper context if they had chosen not to omit this comics motif. To me it actually jars the whole mis en scene out of kilter leaving you with the impression that something is "wrong," but you just can't quite put your finger on it. Excluding captions is a missed opportunity that I hope Osborne and Byrne correct asap.

Byrne's art is serviceable here, but in looking at its presentation, I get the feeling that it would look much better in B&W with ziptone for texture. The backgrounds are lacking in depth and detail which reflects on both the color and the original line work.

One major problem I have with this comic is its price - $3.99. I would have liked it a lot better at the $1.99 price with a 4-color cover and B&W interiors. This is too much to pay for a comic that isn't printed with full, photoshop enhanced color.

Image did it better with their nostalgic look at old comics.
(look at the preview for FANTASTIC COMICS#1)

Read FX at your own risk. Not an auspicious beginning...


Anonymous said...

Actually, if you want an example of a recent comic that did it's best to mimic the comics of a bygone era, then pick-up the latest issue of "The Mighty Avengers" (#10). While I'm not a big fan of Brian Bendis, he does his best to give the story the style of a 70s Marvel comic. There's also era-appropriate coloring, and those great taglines Marvel used to run on the bottom of each page advertising the other comics out that month.

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