Or – “F! X!  No Static At ALLLLLL…”


Back in the early 80’s, when I started reading comics heavily, I would buy anything drawn by George Perez or John Byrne.  At that time, Perez was working pretty much exclusively for DC, and Byrne was Marvel’s Golden Boy, which I contend led to my current love for and roughly encyclopedic knowledge of both universes.  In recent years, though, work by either of them is becoming harder and harder to find, especially on a monthly basis.  I don’t know if it was the familiarity of John’s art that drew me to this title, or the fact that the trade dress is designed to evoke the comics of my youth, but I immediately wanted to read FX when I saw it in the Previews catalog.  Was it worth the wait?

FX1.jpgPreviously, on FX:  I really need to find a better way to do that for first issues…  Oh, well.  Bygones.  The real story of FX goes back a few decades, to a point in time when John Byrne saw a copy of ‘Marvel Comics #1’ sold for $20,000.  One of Byrne’s friends remarked at the time that, for that sum of money, you could HIRE your favorite creators to write and draw your VERY OWN comic, and have the only one that would EVER be in existence.  Since that time, he’s occasionally opened up the floor to commissions, saying that he’d draw someone their own custom comic for 20 grand.  When Wayne Osborne took him up on it, Byrne was surprised to hear that the fan didn’t want a special issue of Jean Grey, Storm, and Emma Frost having a lingerie pillowfight and kissing practice (not that, y’know, anybody would….  um… y’know…  pay for that, or anything) but instead wanted an original issue with his own characters.  Once the issue was completed, Osborne showed it to the publishers at IDW, and the rest is history…

The first page opens with two young teens acting out a swordfight in a public park.  They strike their stick-swords against each other, taunting and teasing (and revealing that the blonde one, Tom, has a crush on a girl named Raye) until Tom sees a strange light in the woods.  He staggers back, as a huge flash explodes before him.  Jack leaps in, and accidentally cracks his friend in the head with his wooden sword.  Tom falls into a coma, but whether it’s from the flash or the stick is unclear.  (It’s one of the few moments that feels contrived in the whole script.)  Later, in the hospital, Tom’s tight@$$ father screams at his wife, the doctor, and a defenseless teenager, waiting for his kid to wake up.  Of course, it’s a comic book, so the only thing that can bring Tom back from the edge of oblivion is…  pop culture!  “I brought you something,” Jack tells his unconscious friend.  “Season three of ‘The Cybernetic Man’ came out today.  It’s go your favorite episode on it…  The one where Austin Stevens fights the robot Bigfoot.”  Heh.  I loved that one…  Tom suddenly wakes up, and all is right with the world.

Of course, that can’t last, can it?  After recovering, the boys are once again rough-housing, pretending that the dumpster behind their apartment building is a Nazi bunker.  Tom pretends that he’s blasting the “bunker” with a bazooka, and it EXPLODES!  The boys run away (Heh) ending up in the woods again, where Tom slowly realizes what’s happening.  “I aimed my ‘bazooka’ at the dumpster, said “Boom!” and then… no more dumpster.  So, I wonder what would happne if I pretend I have a blaster and point my fingers and say…”  He makes the sound of a laser beam, and a nearby tree falls, slices in half by his “laser gun.”  Far from being terrified, the guys realize the coolness of it all, and try to figure out his powers.  An experiment with playing rocket goes badly (Tom ends up thousands of feet up, and screams his way back down) but he imagines himself as an F-14, and quickly flies back down to safety.  Tom and Jack realize that with a little bit of power comes a little bit of awesome, and do what we probably would have done:  created a super-hero costume.

The next day at school, we meet the mysterious and lovely Raye, but unfortunately also meet her deadhead boyfriend.  The whole sequence flows really naturally, and Byrne’s art is back to it’s old self, with Jack looking a lot like Johnny Storm throughout.  Jack gets knocked down by the bullnecked teen, but it wouldn’t be RIGHT to use his powers for revenge…  so he does it anyway.  Heh…  Imagining a bowling ball, he knocks ‘Ace’ (Why aren’t people named Ace anymore?) down, making Raye wonder what she ever saw in him.  The teens all embark on their field trip, heading for the city zoo, where something called “Silverback” is kept.  The something turns out to be a giant talking ape, who (inevitably) breaks free and threatens the lives of everyone. 

Cue our hero… Dum dada dadada DAAAH!  FX, the Human Special Effect!  Jack tries to attack pretending to be a lion, but is quickly overpowered, and Silverback steals the lovely Raye!  (Well, of course he does.)  FX goes back to his airplane gimmick, but finds when he tries the machine guns that he can only pretend one thing at a time.  Silverback catches him (by hitting him with a PARKED CAR!) and proceeds to beat the hell out of FX, until he falls back on the tricks of my childhood.   “Nuhnuhnuhnuhnuhnuhnaaaaah!” he intones, and uses his Bionic (excuse me, CYBERNETIC) strength to deck the primate once and for all!  Later that night, Jack finds that going public has it’s privileges, getting not only acclaim and fame, but a brand new costume (seen on the cover, reminiscent of Booster Gold, Captain Marvel, and Daredevil in a blender.)  Of course, being roughly 14, he doesn’t dwell on the worry that somebody knows exactly who he is, and where he lives, instead putting on his awesome new outfit and going for a flight!  Meanwhile, somewhere else, a strange skull-headed figure watches FX fly away in his scrying mirror, remarking, “This is… unexpected.” 

I don’t know if it’s the retro feel of the book, or the art of John Byrne, but I really enjoyed this issue.  There was a lot going on, but not so much as to muddle the storyline.  Certain plot elements (Silverback, for one) were introduced with little explanation, but the dialogue and the context made me buy into their reality and go with it.  It feels very much like classic Marvel, with the nebbishy main character, his stalwart best friend, the secret crush, and a story that propels you straight into action.  The pacing was very well-done, the dialogue realistic, and the obvious fun that Jack and Tom (and, at least from the feel of it, the writer and artist) have with it all.  I’m sold on this series already, as long as it stays this fun and frenetic.  It’s the comic book equivalent of carnival ride, and we just don’t have enough of those anymore.  FX #1 earns a whole-hearted 4 out of 5 stars.  If you like comics, especially if you’re a fan of the old school, I heartily recommend that you check it out.



About Author

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture! And a nice red uniform.

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