The Fox – #1 & #2
Mark Waid (writer)
Dean Haspiel (artist, writer)
Dark Circle Comics
The Fox is a character that has been kicking around superhero universes since 1940, and has risen again as part of Archie Comics’ revitalized superhero line-up. This current iteration, by Dean Haspiel and Mark Waid, is picking up where their mini-series Freak Magnet, from 2013-2014 left off, though with the branding of “Chapter One” it may seem like it’s meant to be a stand-alone introduction.
The Fox is sad sack Paul Patten, Jr., like if Peter Parker grew up and was sick of punching weirdos in the face. He’s a photojournalist, his father was the first costumed hero The Fox, and he’s on his second marriage. He loves his son and daughter. He has a very heroic (or Gaston-like) chin.
These are the things we know about Paul Patten, Jr. The first issue introduces his primary conflict—not with an arch-nemesis, but with his superhero identity. He wants to hang up The Fox’s uniform for good, live a normal life in the suburbs with his wife Mae and son Shinji. He takes his son with him to the part of town he grew up in, which is set for demolition by the villainous business mogul Mr. Smile. Patten accepts, however, that his dilapidated old hometown will make a reservoir that is desperately needed by the city. Unfortunately, he meets more than a spectre of his past, and it leads to Mr. Smile taking a personal interest in having Patten killed by any means necessary (read: by goofy and enormous villains).
Haspiel’s art is charming, and Shinji is great in issue #2, surprising his father with an unasked for tribute to his heroism and revealing himself as the Ghost Fox. He thanks his dad for the martial arts lessons, and then the two of them face a whole assortment of weird and grotesque villains who are out for the bounty on Patten’s head. The tone is appropriately pulpy for what’s essentially a fresh take on a legacy hero, and you get a lot of Patten’s internal monologue (which is mostly about how he loves his wife and how much he wants a quiet life in the suburbs).
The thing about these two issues is that they don’t stand alone very well. Patten’s world-weariness about his downtrodden life of heroics feels a little groundless; he still heads out every day with his costume under his shirt, and while his fights have certainly been gross, nothing too traumatic is going on. Reading them feels like there should be just a little more backstory for me to really get into a groove with the character, and in fact, there is! The Fox: Freak Magnet is both the prequel to these comics and essential reading to feel like you’re fully grasping the story of the first two issues. While I don’t mind the lack of an exposition dump in either these issues or Freak Magnet, some of the background you want revealed in the initial issues of a new title is unforthcoming, since it’s already been revealed.
I think Freak Magnet is a better place to start if you want to start reading about The Fox, a character who attracts trouble wherever he goes. Chapter One is labeled a little misleadingly, and you don’t want to go into it without reading the prologue. Once you do, though, you’ll have a lot of fun with Haspiel and Waid’s love letter to pulp adventures.