“Comics as good as they should have been,” that’s Erik Larsen’s mantra for his line of “Next Issue Project” one-shots from Image reviving obsolete comic characters of the 1930s and ’40s, and The Fox from Archie’s Red Circle imprint is the kind of first chance that all promising comics concepts deserve.
The character exists in a simultaneous universe of past and present already, being known (if at all) for both ultra-vintage adventures in the costumed-mystery-men era of the comics market’s first superhero bubble (’30s), and for a disastrously-hip reboot in the “camp” era of mass-marketed counterculture (’60s).
Neo-pop master Dean Haspiel on art and story is the one you get to go straight to the source, not the surface, of what makes eternally fresh pulp appealing, and co-writer Mark Waid is the conversational connoisseur who can capture the current moment in a way that puts reader and character in the middle of what’s truly hip and not just trending.
The Fox is in some ways the ideal choice from Archie’s perennially revived and obscured “Mighty Crusaders” to headline a comic; little-known even among this mid-radar stable, and seldom mentioned in historical surveys (for people who, if they do remember him, probably think he was a hero for the company called Fox), this Fox is just the candidate for the costumed-working-stiff persona Haspiel and Waid have given him; a generic (unpowered) superman made iconic everyman by this team.
The point is that this character is a thrill-junkie who also can’t kick the idea of justice, and feels compelled to wade into the weirdness of modern life and brewing dictatorship and pervasive corporate crime with his own WTF getup. A calculated “Freak Magnet,” as the first arc is titled.
Haspiel’s fluid kinetics and exuberant charm conjure the essence of what makes comics both brashly immediate and enduringly involving; he makes much great use of the colliding panel-layout and the single scene segmented by borders to give a feeling of whirlwind action and the eye panning briskly over the space. Waid’s happy-warrior CV on the standard-setting Daredevil brings the exact vocabulary that gives this story believability, the misadventures of a man who embraces the extremes of experience while claiming to love and long for order and simplicity. The key to this, as Waid realizes, is that the basic issues of existence are indeed uncomplicated after all — do no harm, tell the truth, provide for all — but we, trying to live these out, are anything but.
Haspiel writes an eloquent essay in the back that describes he and his dad’s sense of citizenship and tendency toward trouble in the name of good as they see it; his Fox is not a vigilante but a volunteer, and this makes his bizarre adventures believable against formidable odds.
The main story has the Fox just trying to settle down with his wife and kids while not being able to resist exposing a social-media scheme that could be a lot worse than the usual group-mind absorption; this is a whimsical and insightful social satire that Waid handles with straightforward wit, while the surreal backup story, both drawn and written by Haspiel, is a layered and swirled tale of an old Polaroid camera as a kind of genie-bottle of elusive moments. In Waid’s main feature we see the exterior of reality, and in Haspiel’s vignette we see the weirdness from the weirdness’ point of view.
The package is rounded out by a capsule history of the character (skipping over DC Comics’ two outsourced attempts in the 1990s and 2000s). The Fox is a guy who has gotten up from certain disappearance time and again. This version will not get out of your mind any time soon."
--Adam McGovern, Comic Critique