Paul Cornell is currently doing awesome work with a Captain Britain book, a character that Alan Moore did some brilliant work with years ago, and this week, Cornell is doing a story that touches on the style of another Moore masterpiece, Promethea, with a new mini-series with artist Horacio Dominguez that pits the Fantastic Four against a mysterious villain/force/being/something that is negatively affecting the world of fiction.
Forgetting Promethea, this general plot may be quite familiar to readers of Jasper Fforde, so it is quite intriguing how in this first issue, Cornell does not just hang a lampshade/lantern, he practically shouts out Fforde’s influence, which I thought was cute.
Jasper Fforde is the author of the popular Thursday Next series of novels, which details the adventures of a woman (Thursday Next) who lives in a world where the plots of famous novels are constantly being challenged, so a police force must protect the plots from being changed.
Essentially, that is what is going on in this comic series, someone is attacking the world of fiction, and the Fantastic Four must go into the fictional world to try to stop them. They create a fictional craft to take them where they need to go in the world of fiction, and Sue names it the “Jasper,” and then explains that it is named after a favorite author of hers whose books are similar to what is going on – Cornell even notes the amusing nature of the fact that Fforde’s name begins with no less than FF.
So it struck me as cute that Cornell went WAY out of his way to address the similarities, which is nice of him, but at the same time, it’s not like this is groundbreaking stuff. I mentioned Promethea before (which predates Thursday Next by a couple of years), and Promethea certainly wasn’t groundbreaking in the world of metafiction, either. I mean, John Barth was doing this stuff forty years or so ago, and HE wasn’t even necessarily groundbreaking!
It’s not a big deal, but it amused me (my girlfriend is a fan of the Thursday Next novels, so she quickly made the connection when I described the plot of this series, so Cornell was most likely correct to hang the lampshade).
ANYhow, as to the actual story, Cornell puts most of the story’s burden upon Sue, who, as it turns out, is a voracious reader. There is something slightly askew about the way that Cornell adds in odd details here and there, like Reed’s favorite movie being Josie and the Pussycats. I don’t know if it necessarily works, but the basic plot is strong, which is that Sue begins to feel depressed because of the loss of her connection with the world of fiction.
Here is a page where she discusses this (Horacio Dominguez does the art, and while he does not hamper the story, I can’t say he exactly helps it, either. It doesn’t help that the great Niko Henrichon did the cover, and they have similar enough styles for Dominguez to unfortunately be put up as comparison, which is not fair to him, of course) depression (click on all pages to enlarge):
Cornell does a great bit where he breaks down Johnny and Ben’s arguments…
And here’s a fun depiction of a variety of stories Sue tries to read to her daughter, Valeria, before she realizes that the world of fiction has been cut off to everyone…
After entering the world of fiction, the Fantastic Four encounter Dante (because he, of course, is a fictional character himself, having written himself into his own work), who works as a guide for them.
The book ends as we finally get to see a tangible example of what is going on in the world of fiction, as the ladies from Sense and Sensibility are about to be besieged by some frightful creatures, and it is up to the Fantastic Four to protect them.
I’d have liked to have seen more of the main plot in the first issue, and less set-up, but I will admit that what Cornell gives us is entertaining and intriguing enough to still be a good comic – and how can you dislike a comic book whose next issue blurb reads, “Reader, I clobbered him”?!?!?