Thursday, 23 April 2015

FBP: Federal Bureau of Physics Volume 1: The Paradigm Shift Review (Simon Oliver, Robbi Rodriguez)

“The impossible is always possible…” is an oft-repeated phrase throughout this story - does that include Vertigo publishing a good comic? Ah, I kid, Vertigo! … but not really. 

Vertigo have had a helluva dry spell since Scalped and Northlanders both ended. Even the DC wunderkind Scott Snyder failed to liven up the label with his mediocre book, The Wake. So it continues with FBP, a humungously boring story that doesn’t know what it’s supposed to be. 

It sells itself as this wacky tale of science gone belly-up. The laws of physics have been broken: up is down, black is white, Adam Sandler is funny, you get the idea – everything is wrong. Enter the Federal Bureau of Physics, a new branch of government that’s there to act as a kind of investigative body into these disturbances as well as a fourth emergency service. 

What the book actually is, is an extremely tedious character-driven story with the weird science as background only. Meet Adam Hardy, the protagonist of the book whose personality can be described as: he wears a baseball cap, has one expression, and is standoffish. Those are the qualities of a background character, not the freakin’ LEAD!! 

He joined the Bureau after his dad “died” in an experiment but they never found his body - which means he was probably sucked into another dimension and he’ll turn up later in the series. I’m not going to read any further than this book but I’d bet the house that that happens. And that’s his story: daddy issues, surly, boring. 

The physics gone mad thing is presented in such a mundane fashion when it should really fill the reader with wonder. There are people floating around, people jumping off buildings and landing safely on the ground; there’s so much potential for a world where people can temporarily become superheroes like The Matrix - yet I never felt the wonder of any of it. That’s partly due to Adam wandering into a scene and “fixing” it by making things safe and pedestrian again. 

How does someone become a FBP agent anyway and what makes them special? Adam basically rocks up at a scene, puts on goggles, gets put in a winch, and “solders” a patch of air with a special soldering gun. Well that sounds like something anyone could do, like a construction worker’s job - what’s so specialised about what Adam does? We don’t see him doing anything besides this so no clue. But that really is how drearily these ruptures are presented: rifts in the air that are soldered back up. Ho hum, no excitement here, folks, move along. 

It’s never explained just why physics has broken down which I was fine with – just write a good story, I’ll suspend my disbelief. But no, it’s about the private sector taking over this branch so it can sell physics insurance to the masses. It’s evil businessmen again! Oh my god, this comic beggars belief just how utterly tedious it is! 

The pacing of the story is so poor. We go from slow present (organisational politics, underfunded department) to unconnected flashback to tedious science wiki info dump (there is far too much exposition in this comic) back to flashback to present to another wiki info dump (it’s also all technobabble I didn’t retain) to a crap set piece and then more shots of boring Adam standing wearing a baseball cap glaring at the middle distance. He’s such a forgettable protagonist and yet we’re supposed to care about his quest for his dad – nope! 

Flashbacks are meant to help explain the present, not the past - they’re a method of enhancing the story going forward. Simon Oliver hasn’t grasped this so he throws in random flashbacks that add nothing to the story and actually bog down the stagnant pacing still further. The book has no pulse. 

Robbi Rodriguez’s art is Bill Sienkiewicz-lite with a dash of Ralph Steadman. If you’re not familiar with those names, it means the art is very sketchy, exaggerated and swirly though I wouldn’t class Rodriguez as highly as those two artists. I know why the art, including the loud colouring, was like that - to reflect the physics-gone-mad idea - but it totally failed to grab my imagination. 

FBP is a mess. It stars a one-dimensional, archetypical main character you couldn’t care less about and a cast who somehow manage to come off as even more bland. The story and the way it’s written is completely unengaging. Horrible, I was begging for mercy by the end!

FBP: Federal Bureau of Physics Volume 1: The Paradigm Shift

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