Dean Haspiel and Mark Waid’s “The Fox” #2 finds our hero trapped in a “Diamond World” against his will, and fighting for his life, as well as the freedom of the dimension. The resulting adventure is both charming and fun, with a great cliffhanger ending.
Clocking in at 18 pages, the story feels slightly thin; possibly to make room for the 6-page back up story for “The Shield” character. However, the main story is a lot of fun and legitimately funny. Though Haspiel’s visuals are charming in their own right, it’s really Waid’s take on Paul/The Fox’s character that makes this issue sing. Paul’s observations and witty banter are frequently laugh out loud funny and even for the bits that don’t make you laugh out loud will have you smiling. A good portion of the story relies heavily on narration to explain how our hero got to be in the “Diamond World” and while it’s annoyingly “tell” instead of “show,” Waid’s narration is funny enough that it well compensates for the storytelling weaknesses.
Haspiel’s visuals are clean and feel appropriately pulpy and energized. His expressions for The Fox, even considering the costume/mask are highly effective and really highlight the definitive personality of Paul/The Fox. Despite the clean and simple style, Haspiel has no trouble making The Fox both iconic and also incredibly human and relatable. Allen Passalaqua’s colors are a great match for Haspiel’s simple artwork, straddling that line of darkly pulp and poppy superhero effortlessly. Passalaqua has a good bit of fun with the psychedelic colors of the “Diamond Dimension” and it contrasts especially well with the scenes set in our own more subdued reality.
The “back-up story” is one of my least favorite elements of comics primarily because it’s just hard to make a resonant six-page comic book story. It’s unfortunate that “The Fox” #2 contains less of Haspiel and Waid’s “The Fox” (even if it’s only short a few pages) for a tiny piece of DeMatteis and Cavallaro’s “The Shield,” which is lovely to look at but basically an exposition-laden journey through a past adventure as told by The Shield to his buddies in a bar.
At six pages it’s simply hard to engage in the story and the expositional nature of the piece doesn’t make it any easier. While Waid was able to inject enough humor into his exposition to make it worth the while, DeMatteis doesn’t have that luxury (through character or page time) and so the story is not particularly compelling. However, the visuals by Mike Cavallaro, Terry Austin and Steve Downer are fantastic. Stylistically, they are right on point for the tone of the WWII story being relayed and the pages are full of energy.
On the whole, “The Fox” is turning out to be fun, charming, solid comic, even if doesn’t yet have the gravitas to leave a permanent mark. Between Haspiel’s lovely stylized art and Waid’s excellent voice for Paul/The Fox, there’s plenty here for readers to come back to.