The Fox #5 (Archie Comics) Review

The Fox #5 is a fitting finale to Dean Haspiel's "Freak Magnet" mini-series. Here's Chris' review...

As a kid who spent hours browsing through the three-for-a-dollar bin at my local comic store, I can still remember the annoyance I would feel when I invariably stumbled upon copies of Red Circle/Archie Adventure Series comics. I was similarly irritated by toy store visits where Remco’s Mighty Crusaders action figures were perennial pegwarmers. Yet here we are 30 years later, and I cannot get enough of these characters, and I have The Fox’s Freak Magnet mini-series to thank. For the past four issues, Mark Waid and Dean Haspiel (ably assisted by J.M. DeMatteis and Mike Cavallaro’s The Shield back-up story The Face of Hate) have helped give these heroes the critical and commercial success that has always seemed to elude them. It’s a welcome development, yet also one that is bittersweet as The Fox #5, “Future’s End” brings the story to a satisfying close. 

When we last saw harried hero The Fox, he found himself thrust into the Shield’s supporting story, so it is only fitting that J.M. DeMatteis takes over main writing duties for this issue. As this installment begins, we see a now-elderly Shield sitting in a dive bar whose name, in a wonderful touch, references the character’s MLJ Comics origins. He is recounting the time during World War II that he was forced to  team with Japan’s Hachi-Man and Germany’s Master Race and the Fox to fight the Druid — a cosmic giant whose notions of how to reboot mankind are a demented fusion of Ozymandias and Doctor Manhattan’s worst personality traits.

As the Fox attempts to make sense of what he going on, he remains as hapless as ever, musing to his new acquaintances that he is merely “an average idiot who always finds himself up to his neck in craziness he never asked for.” Regardless of his non-traditional approach to superheroics, he manages to rally his cohorts in order to defeat their common enemy. How? By forming a gestalt entity that shares their memories and emotions, natch.

Were he a lesser writer, DeMatteis’ “we must overlook our differences and team up to save the day” denouement would come off as cloying. But here the aww shucks sentimentality that concludes both the Freak Magnet and The Face of Hate storylines somehow feels perfectly suitable for these oddball underdogs…not to mention in line with the character’s wholesome MLJ/Archie roots.

Throughout the series, Haspiel has been at a career best. The streak continues here as he unleashes dreamlike splash pages and panels that overflow and crash into each other – subtly mirroring how the worlds of the main characters have survived. Although Haspiel’s work (almost certainly deliberately) evokes the illustrative flair of Fox predecessor Alex Toth at times, this is more than anything a showcase of his considerable talents. 

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So The Fox’s adventures are over for now, but thanks to a final page tease we know that he will return in Fox Hunt, which once again promises to reunite Haspiel and Mark Waid. For comics readers, this is great news indeed. The Fox is one Freak Magnet we’ll want to see much more of.


The Fox #5Writer: J.M. DeMatteisArtist: Dean Haspiel and (Colorist) Allen Passalaqua

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5 out of 5