Posted by Don MacPherson on January 11th, 2008
The Foundation #1
Writer: John Rozum
Colors: Malaka Studio
Letters/Editor: Marshall Dillon
Publisher: Boom! Studios
Price: $3.99 US
Boom! Studios has done it again.
In late 2006, I was blown away by Talent, a Boom title that impressed with a strong premise, compelling, dark atmosphere and well-realized characters. The Foundation is a much different project, but it also captured my imagination. Both books have a distinctly dark and cinematic quality, and the supernatural/superhuman elements and twists remind one of the works of such filmmakers as Hitchcock and Shyamalan. This initial plot revolves around a potential air disaster, and while we’re more than six years removed from the events of 9-11, paranoia about terrorism remains raw enough today that delving into that subject matter is a bit risky. I applaud the creators for taking the risk of offending some sensibilities in the name of a good story. More importantly, John Rozum poses an interesting and challenging question of ethics to the reader that sparks reflection beyond the reading experience and the circumstances of the plot.
At Newark Airport, air travellers mill about a gate as they wait for Flight 157 to begin boarding. One particular passenger, who’s subjected to an unfortunate food stain, checks to see if he has time to go to the washroom to clean up a bit, and he’s given the OK by airline staff. His delay in that washroom is about to get much longer than he expected, as he looks down the barrel of a gun. Terrified, he’s unaware that the apparent threat will save his life. As for the man holding the gun, all he can think about are the others who will make Flight 157 but who won’t make it to their destination.
Chee’s art put me in mind of the style of Warren (Deadenders, Mobfire) Pleece, capturing the same kind of dark tension and melancholy humanity with a fairly simple, understated approach. Chee employs a variety of different designs to distinguish among the routine, everyday look of the various characters, and he manages to establish a strong sense of realism despite his simpler style. The colors reinforce that effort by adding texture to the characters’ skin tones and clothing, and it also bolsters the sullen atmosphere as set out by the inks and the narration.
One visual component I found distracting from start to finish, though, was the lettering. Specifically, I found it odd that quotes were used in the narrative captions. Presented in the voice of the main character, the quotes were off-putting. Perhaps they represent the fact that the narration is actually some kind of letter or journal Valentine is writing, but there’s no evidence of that in this initial issue. I know I’m rambling on a lot about what seems like a minor issue of punctuation, but there’s a bit more to it as well. It would have been clearer as well if those particular captions were presented in a different color than the speech balloons and electronic messages peppered throughout this issue as well.
Mind you, what was contained within those captions was fascinating. Valentine finds himself mired in moral catch 22 that promises to tear him apart, and it’s a riveting inner conflict. Of course, the mystery of the Foundation, how it does what it does and why all serve to hook the reader, sucking one into the story and bringing credibility to the incredible.
It’s a shame that so many of Boom’s releases, including this one, boast a $3.99 US cover price, a buck more than many other episodic comic titles. That extra buck will likely take this unknown quantity and its lesser-known creators out of the field of interest of many readers, which is unfortunate. Still, as I’ve noted in the past, Boom no doubt knows its market, its costs and its potential reach better than an outsider such as myself, so I have to assume the price point is right for them.
If one believes in God and such a creator figure’s omnipotence, one also has to accept the notion that this all-powerful, benevolent being allows horrible things to happen. Many accept it as part of a divine plan, but imagine what it must be like to choose to turn a blind eye to tragedy and suffering if it’s within one’s power to prevent. That’s the question Rozum poses with The Foundation, placing man in God’s shoes. The good of the many over the needs of the few may be an easier concept with which to tangle when the few is one or two folks. But when the few is hundreds, the ethical dilemma is all the more complicated, distressing and — fortunately for the reader — interesting. 8/10