With their Dark Circle imprint, Archie Comics has taken obscure Golden Age heroes and breathed new life into them with the help of today’s best comics creators. There are already two issues out of the gritty crime series Black Hood featuring a cop turned vigilante that isn’t afraid to kill criminals to satisfy his drug addiction.
The Fox #1 comes out this week and is about Paul Patton Jr., a photographer who is also a superhero known as The Fox, and his son Shinji, who are photographing Paul’s old hometown, Beaver Kill, before it gets destroyed by a mega-corporation. Then, mystical shenanigans happen because The Fox is a freak magnet.
The Fox #1 is written by Dean Haspiel (American Splendor) and Mark Waid (Daredevil) with art by Haspiel and colors by Allen Passalaqua (Q2:: The Return of Quantum and Woody) and is published by the Dark Circle Imprint of Archie Comics
What kind of superhero story is The Fox?
The Fox #1 is definitely more focused on the relationship between The Fox and his son Shinji. We see him a lot more out of costume (or unmasked) than in costume in the story. However, Dean Haspiel’s art is lively and uses a lot of classic superhero storytelling devices, like iconic poses, speed lines, and full and two page spreads while having a detailed art style. He and Mark Waid make the plot and overall story a mix between a superhero sitcom, a father/son story, and an extended meditation on nostalgia.
Haspiel and Waid give The Fox an incredibly self-deprecating and occasionally funny inner monologue with some wistfulness thrown in for good measure. With all the caption boxes and even thought bubbles floating around, the comic looks like an old school superhero comic, but the content in the boxes show how world-weary The Fox is with the superhero lifestyle.
But ever the consummate do-gooder, The Fox still wears his costume under his civvies. He is also cynical about modern technology and the loss of his hometown, but sucks it up and takes pictures of it on a smartphone by the company destroying it. These contradictions make him a compelling, relatable hero. Basically, Waid and Haspiel poke fun at superhero cliches while crafting one with a complex inner life and realistic relationship. But then things get weird.
How does it get weird?
The first page of The Fox #1 is a riff on the old end of issue, hero in peril cliffhanger that you’ve seen in millions of comics. But it happens to be on page one. Colorist Allen Passalaqua lays on a disgusting mix of grey/black and sickly green on the page to make this more of a health code violation than a supervillain death trap.
This page is offered to readers with no background explanations, except for The Fox’ inner monologue about his constant need for Ibuprofen for his headaches. The Fox #1 throws you straight into the life of its hero/photographer without wasting pages on its origin or explaining magic in its world. Haspiel and Passalaqua even play with surrealism as The Fox imagines Beaver Kill under blurry, fetid blue/green water surrounded by goldfish. They use the sick green color as a leit motif for this issue’s villain, who like all good villains, has an intensely personal connection to The Fox and his childhood in Beaver Kill.
Should I pick up this comic?
If you like down to Earth superheroes with actual human problems (who make witty jokes about them), definitely check out The Fox #1. Dean Haspiel’s art is masterful, and he uses the photography background of The Fox and his son to craft “snapshot” panels that give you a closer look at how the characters are feeling during pivotal moments.
Dean Haspiel and Mark Waid also really dig into the idea of nostalgia through The Fox, and how the old days were pretty good, but that our memories are more important that preserving every nook and cranny of childhood. The corporation as villain has been used a lot in recent comics, but they wisely focus on the characters’ feeling and interpersonal relationships while throwing in an ample dose of sarcasm, sight gags, and an actual final page cliffhanger to keep the story entertaining.