Advance Review: The Foundation #1

ADVANCE REVIEW: THE FOUNDATION #1

WRITER: JOHN ROZUM
ARTIST: CHEE
COLOURIST: MALAKA STUDIO
PUBLISHER: BOOM! STUDIOS

I can’t have come into this review any colder – and no, that is nothing to do with the weather outside (though how it hasn’t snowed in good ol’ London Town yet is beyond me). Before reading this book, I had no prior awareness of the series, having heard none of the usual hype over the internet; the creators are not well known to me, and the recent knowledge I have about Boom! Studios is that Mark Waid has recently taken over as Editor-in-Chief. Does this rather blinkered view of the smaller publishers in the current comic book industry leave an important gap in my comics education? Almost certainly. But does this book succeed in making me want to take the plunge to find out more?

As you would expect, this is quite clearly a ‘set-up’ issue, introducing the characters and the wider concepts. The major themes are quite clearly laid out in front of us as a conflict between predestination and free will, and the dilemma of the greater good. The world of ‘The Foundation’ appears very grounded and reality-based, without a super-power in sight, although hints of the mythical permeate throughout (think Alias rather than Heroes). The way Rozum seeks to play with these notions is different, and it’s intriguing; however, I’m not sure it is all that effective. There are some good ideas, but strangely when wrapped up as a package it ends up as a rather muted first issue.

The story is fully narrated by the one central protagonist, whose name still remains unknown. This issue, and perhaps the series as a whole, is aiming for an intimate character study, playing with the rather grand themes as he encounters a turning point in his current existence. The balance between the two is achieved quite nicely; the problem is that, in the process of exploring the effects of these doubts and debates to create a flawed and therefore interesting central character, we instead end up with a whining, ultimately unsympathetic hero, about which we actually know very little.

All the above combines to build a tight, claustrophobic atmosphere – and as a stand-alone issue, this has all the makings of a great noir spy-thriller. However, it also means that it is incredibly difficult to gauge what the future of this series might look like; at this rate, you get the feeling that you will need to commit to buying the first four issues before you can build up any picture of the direction in which this story is heading – and therefore whether or not this is the right sort of book for you. Now, #2 could change tack completely, going for a totally different approach, using a different narrative style, or focussing on an entirely different character (there are three characters portrayed on the cover – will the next issue focus on a completely different one, or will we continue from the point of view of #1’s hero?). I have to admit, I am intrigued to find out where all this is heading… but the question is: am I intrigued enough to part with £4 – £6 over the next few months to find out?

Contrary to these unknowns within the story, the artwork actually displays some very clear sequential storytelling, doing an excellent job of capturing both the pacing and the soul of an episode of Mission Impossible (of course I am referring to the fantastic original television series, and not the pretty awful film versions starring Tom Cruise, which bear almost no resemblance to the source material), which is a perfect fit for this issue at least. The colour art is slick and stylish, making this altogether a very nice looking comic book; however, this perhaps doesn’t quite fit the noir tone of the rest of the book’s components.

All in all, this is a pretty bold attempt to try something different, and that is saying something considering the number of comics that are out there today, all fighting for that vital market share. To be honest, I’m amazed at how many comics just try to compete in the same space, and The Foundation certainly deserves credit for trying to carve out its own niche. I really want to support this book; but ultimately there are probably a few too many unknowns preventing me from taking that leap just yet.

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