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Fringe #1
posted September 17, 2008


Creators: Zack Whedon, Julia Cho, Tom Mandrake, Carrie Strachan, Wes Abbott
Publishing Information: DC Comics, comic book 32 pages, September 2008, $2.99
Ordering Numbers:

As far as I can tell watching the pilot, the new Fox TV Show Fringe is hoping for an audience of people that like the multi-layered and potentially hostile mysteries of Lost but prefer the straight-forward plot progressions of something like NCIS; comfort food with an out-there ingredient or two as opposed to whole genre reinvention. Two genius scientists are employed in the early '70s by the federal government to work on fringe science areas like dreamwalking and reanimating corpses. In 2008 a plucky FBI agent frees the disgraced member of that team to basically aim him at the world-domination ambitions of the super-successful alumnus. Joshua Jackson comes along to provide punching and smirking. There's a well-cast series of supporting players, including Keen Eddie Mark Valley as a handsome ne'er do well, and Blair Brown as an evil administrator sporting a robot arm. This was surprising for those of us that saw Blair Brown in Arcadia in the mid-1990s, as during that performance she pretty much seemed to be all robot. Thank you, tip your waitress.

There are three basic paths you can take with a TV tie-in comic: re-telling, same story/different angle and background. This is a trip behind door number three, as we get to see nascent super-scientists Walter Bishop and William Bell develop their relationship as young graduate assistants on the Harvard University campus. What it's not is very compelling. The pages are crowded and the figures are stiffly executed. Backgrounds are cursory or fall away all together. It's always difficult to mirror the entertainment to be wrung by the physical presence of actors like John Noble and almost impossible to do so when, as is the case here, time-honored exaggerations of American mainstream comics are brought to bear on the series' design. There's nothing as funny in the comic as the series pilot's exchange between Noble and Jackson where Noble says he thought Jackson was going to be fatter: that's because Jackson looks like like a former fat kid not all the way settled into his body. More crucially, when your brand of horror depends on human fragility, it helps when those bodies are real ones rather than largely idealized.

If you're a big fan of the TV show, particularly its back story, and want to see it filled in -- maybe -- in the form of drawings much stiffer than the actors playing your favorite characters, this could be the comic book for you. Otherwise, skip it.