Tuesday, August 11, 2015

FOXFIRE #1 – February 1996

Interview with an Ultra
Credits:  Ian Edginton & Dan Abnett (writers), Kevin West (penciler), Philip Moy & Bob Almond (inkers), Edd Hendricks (letterer), Rob Alvord (colorist)

Summary:  Rose is interviewed by a detective, following the disappearance of her father.  As soon as the detective leaves the room, Rose activates her powers and flies away.  She returns to the ruins of her apartment and uses her powers to follow a trail invisible to the human eye.  Unbeknownst to Rose, an agent from the Juventus Clinic & Health Spa is tailing her.  Rose tracks footprints into the sewers and is soon attacked by a feral monster.  Another monster, Sludge, unexpectedly arrives to rescue her.  Rose passes out due to her injuries, and is confronted by Ultraforce when she awakens.

Continuity Notes:  
  • Sludge is one of the original Ultraverse heroes, created by Steve Gerber as a ‘90s version of the muck-monster archetype.
  • Rose is shocked to discover she bleeds blue blood.
  • A one-page cutaway features Ultras named Thorn Boy, Chaotician, and Jack Dancer in one-panel scenes for an unexplained reason.

“Huh?” Moments:  Rose has returned to the present day with no explanation, following her last appearance in The Phoenix Resurrection: Aftermath.  Also, the path that she follows into the sewers, the one that no one has noticed, is a trail of gigantic footprints.

Review:  Foxfire begins its run as a regular series, although it would appear the entire Ultraverse line is canned just a few months after its debut.  I have absolutely no idea what was going on behind-the-scenes of this book, but it would appear that there’s been some last minute rethinking before the first issue was even completed.  A blurb on the final page of The Phoenix Resurrection: Aftermath told us that Rose’s story would continue in Foxfire #1, yet the character’s gone through an unrevealed journey through time in-between issues.  She’s also, somehow, been brought into custody as the police investigate the disappearance of her father.  Ignoring the continuity gap between stories, I’m willing to accept that Rose is going to have a hard time explaining the absence of her time-traveling robot father, but the conflict only leads to more confusion.  Rose returns to her former home, ostensibly to investigate the disappearance of her father…but she already knows what happened!  The damage from the Phoenix’s blast revealed his robotic nature, Rose passed out (something she does yet again this issue), and he took her to the future to join the human rebellion.  What does she hope to find at her old apartment?  

I briefly wondered if Foxfire #1 was completed before the Phoenix Resurrection event issues, but that wouldn’t explain the discrepancies.  If anything, having a complete Foxfire #1 in the drawer would’ve given the creators a specific goal to work toward and lessened the inconsistencies.  Instead, it reads as if no one knew what the other person was doing, even though this entire event has featured the same writing team.  It’s also possible that there’s a Rose appearance in-between Phoenix Resurrection and Foxfire #1 that explains some of this confusion, but it’s hard to ignore the blurb and hype page in The Phoenix Resurrection: Aftermath that tell the reader specifically to pick up Foxfire #1 to find out what happens next.  Was this going to be a sci-fi book set in a post-apocalyptic future, or My So-Called Life with superpowers?

Visually, Foxfire seems to have gone through another round of second thoughts.  The earliest preview images of Foxfire played up the cheesecake element, with Wizard and other fan press outlets promoting her as Marvel’s first “Bad Girl.”  

(I completely forgot there was a professional comic artist named “Fang,” by the way.)  That look is considerably toned down this issue, with Kevin West presenting a much less pervy interpretation of the hero.  West’s female characters do have a certain charm to them, evoking an early John Byrne look with some ‘90s influences, so I can’t say he’s a bad choice for the book.  West’s real weakness this issue seems to be civilian male figures, and there’s a dearth of those after Rose ditches the detective in the opening pages.  West spends most of the issue drawing a pretty girl and monsters, and it seems to suit his talents.

That doesn’t mean that the hints of cheesecake are totally gone however.  Rose, in her superheroine form, is essentially a nude female figure, so it’s not surprising that some artists can’t restrain themselves.

It’s actually not that bad of a joke, since this is the “back” cover, but I can’t imagine Marvel publishing something like this today without at least three days of internet backlash.

Speaking of that female faux-Phoenix form…it’s not hard to guess why she’s going to be called Foxfire, I just think it’s odd that she hasn’t picked up the name yet.  This is her big debut issue, after all.  Something of significance should’ve happened here.  Ultimately it’s a quick read, one that awkwardly co-exists with the allegedly important Phoenix miniseries, and doesn’t give the hero much to do outside of wandering around and passing out.  That’s a weak debut for anyone; I’m glad Marvel/Malibu rethought the “Bad Girl” angle, but it doesn’t seem as if anything’s replacing it.

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