(BOOM! Studios, 2014)
Written by Paul Jenkins
Illustrated by Ramon Bachs
Colors by Leonardo Paciarotti
Letters by Jim Campbell
“Every nursery rhyme is a crime scene…” Interesting thought that, and I think it could be the over-reaching statement to characterize what the new comic from BOOM! Studios is about.
Fiction Squad is the brainchild of Paul Jenkins, veteran comic scribe on multiple books including The Spectacular Spider-Man and Hellblazer. One cannot even being to describe a book like this without mentioning the impact of Bill Willingham’s Fables series and the assorted offshoots, but know that Jenkins’ touch is as different as Humpty Dumpty and the three blind mice.
Jenkins throws us violently into the world of the imaginary, sketching out a landscape that encompasses all aspects of the fictional universe. The directions are vague and very like a J.M. Barrie quote, and the provided map names the distinct parts of the country for the kind of fiction they belong to. (Romance Realm, Fairy Tales, Children’s Stories, etc.) Unlike Willingham’s story though, this takes place strictly in the fairy tale world, with Frankie Mack being our main character, a hard-boiled detective from a “forgotten thirty-page novella.” He’s stuck between “The Madonnas”, a group of fairy tale queens, and “The Witches”, the…uh…witches. These two groups are struggling for power in the largest of the fable cities, Rime, and the creatures that live there, Frankie included, are caught in the middle.
How do you come out with a book that has a similar premise to a best seller? How do you make it different and interesting enough that people will pick it up, buy it, and not pass it by, all the time thinking, “It’s a Fables knockoff?”
The answer is, you do what Paul Jenkins does, and write a killer story. I suppose it could partially be that I loved those other book so much at the beginning, that they were my re-introduction to what comics could be, and I’m a sucker for this kind of thing, but I also read a lot of comics, and I can tell when the story is strong. Jenkins has a strong premise here, and despite the setting, everything is different about his book. Jenkins spices the script with Easter egg-type phrases that will have sing-songy phrases bouncing through your head like they did when you were a toddler.
Ramon Bachs has worked on Mavel’s Civil War: Frontline and Azrael for DC, but in this book brings a more cartoonist style to the pages, and it works well with the script. His drawings are fluid and fun, and he uses perspective to show the huge reach of the fairy tale world. There’s one page with a back and forth between Frankie and his boss, where perspective plays a huge role, and the payoff is fantastic. (Page 26 for those who want to know.)
Fiction Squad #1 is not only a unique and fun book, but also Paul Jenkins and Ramon Bachs have done a splendid job of digging through that fairy tale pie and pulling out their own distinctive plum. BOOM! Studios once again proves that they are a publisher worth watching and reading.
Brad Gischia is a writer and artist living in the frozen Upper Peninsula of Michigan. He is married and has three kids and a dog, who all put up with his incessant prattling about comic books.