The Fox #1 (Archie Comics) Review

Archie's The Fox #1 by Dean Haspiel and Mark Waid is an awesome comic that packs more fun and action per page than you can believe!

While most superhero comics for the last twenty years or so have been trying to produce the kind of “widescreen” big budget Hollywood blockbuster feel that would translate well to, ummm…big budget Hollywood blockbusters, there’s a segment of the comic-reading public (including this writer) who like their comics to feel like, y’know, comics. Dean Haspiel and Mark Waid’s The Fox #1 from Archie Comics’ superhero line, Red Circle Comics, will feel like an answered prayer to readers tired of convoluted continuity and crossovers, but who still love superheroes.Paul Patton Jr. is a photographer who just can’t seem to stop landing himself in trouble. The self-described “freak magnet” opens the book costume-free, tied to a chair, and getting beaten by a couple of thugs. There’s more than a little of the everyman, take-a-beating-and-smile charm of Will Eisner’s Spirit on display in the pages of The Fox, and surely this is no accident. In a way, though, it’s like Eisner filtered through the madness of the very best of the 1960s Batman TV show, with bright colors, clean lines, and dutch angles, where costume changes take place in the blink of a panel, and just as one cliffhanger gets resolved, you’re off to the next. The Fox is retro-cool without being kitschy, and one can almost imagine its action sequences set to the jauntier moments from the Charles Mingus or Cannonball Adderley catalogues.In case you’re making the assumption that Archie automatically equals “all ages,” let’s be clear that there’s an edge here. The recent New Crusaders mini-series that reintroduced the Archie hero line (more on this in a future article!) had its share of bloodletting and death, so anyone expecting watered-down superhero stories is sadly mistaken. There’s plenty of action and violence on display here, a scary villainess, and even the hint of marital infidelity, although none of this borders on the gratuitous, nor does it fall prey to the “see! Comics aren’t just for kids!” trap that so many other superhero books fall into. And while The Fox #1 certainly takes place in the world established in the recent Red Circle revival, but if you’re new to the party, there’s no reason why you can’t dive right in with this book.While the great (and quite prolific) Mark Waid scripts The Fox, this feels very much like Dean Haspiel’s show and his clean lines and style make The Fox #1 just move along briskly, establishing Paul Patton as a photojournalist/superhero with virtually nothing in common with Peter Parker beyond his initials and choice of occupations, introducing and revealing a villain in the course of three pages, and more action in the opening 20 page story than you’re going to find anywhere else. Even the backup story, which starts off like an origin story (and is young Paul Patton playing with the old Remco Mighty Crusaders action figures in one panel?) before just moving on to more bonkers action! It’s almost too much. Almost. Between the frenetic superheroics of The Fox #1 and the note perfect retro-horror of Afterlife With Archie, the folks at Archie Comics are making genuine comic books for genuine comic book fans…not comics with one eye on the world of TV, movies, or video games. Look, there’s nothing wrong with that, and in a society as plugged-in as we are, and where the lines between all of our favorite forms of entertainment become more blurry by the day, it’s unavoidable, and in some cases can be applauded. But it’s refreshing to pick up a comic like The Fox (and, for that matter, Afterlife With Archie) that simply celebrates the art form and runs with the possibilities. Now, if only other publishers would catch up to what Archie is already hip to… NOTE: An earlier version of this review incorrectly identified The Fox as an “all-ages” title.Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter for all news updates related to the world of geek. And Google+, if that’s your thing!