"The Rudiments of Wisdom - Part One: The Day The Fairies Came Out"
Writer: Paul Cornell
Artists: Trevor Hairsine (p & i), Paul Neary (i), Guru efx (colours)
Wisdom sees the tituar character, Pete Wisdom - an occasional X-Man, apparently - heading up MI-13, a secret branch of the UK government which deals with the problems caused by the interventions of the supernatural within the British isles. So far, so X-Files, but Wisdom adds some touches of detail which set it apart from the more run-of-the-mill imitators of that celebrated series' success. The cast is bigger (including a psychic, a "fairy dissident" - Tink - and Birmingham's answer to Captain America), and the plot of the book sees MI-13 investigate the abduction of the child of a British Minister by Oberon, King of the Fairies, and journey to the world of the collective British unconscious in order to battle the fairies with modern weaponry and methods. The result is an imaginative story which feels less like the X-Files and more like A Midsummer Night's Dream by way of Dungeons and Dragons - with a touch of The Ultimates thrown in - and is a lot more entertaining than that description probably makes it sound.
The artwork serves the book well, with a real sense of character captured in the faces of the cast, and a strong knack for visual storytelling evident during the big "money shot" scenes. There's also a real sense of humour to be found in the art as well as the writing, with Pete's charismatic cheekiness and Tink's slightly deranged sexuality - both of which turn out to be important story elements - coming over very strongly. There's a strong feeling of realism which helps to sell the book's world despite the fairies and fantasy, and this is reinforced by the use of real-life models for some of the faces; I spotted the obvious John Lennon and slightly more obscure Bill Nighy, at least. A lot of people have compared penciller Trevor Hairsine's style to that of the Ultimates' Bryan Hitch, and whilst I haven't been particularly convinced of any real similarities in the past, I have to admit to seeing some influence here. Some scenes - such as those featuring Captain Midlands - almost look like direct lifts from the pages of Ultimates, and whilst there's obviously an element of parody in the Captain's militaristic outfit, circular shield, and unusually violent approach to fighting, it's all a bit too close for comfort visually to work as an effective skit on Ultimate Cap. Maybe it's because Paul Neary is on inking duties that the two books look so similar, but the colouring is also so stylistically close to the work of Ultimates' Laura Martin that the whole issue slowly begins to feel like a supernatural British take on Mark Millar's series. Unfortunately, it also looks as though Hairsine has got Hitch's gift for punctuality, as the latest solicitation information from Marvel indicates that he won't be seeing the series through to its completion. Obviously, artistic lateness is only encouraged if you're working on one of the publisher's flagship books.
Funnily enough, a new series called Torchwood has recently started on British TV with a similar premise to this book, and one episode has already attempted to deal with the problem of malevolent fairies. However, whilst that show gets bogged down in tying the supernatural into real-life with a heavy dollop of "kitchen sink drama" and concessions to an audience which is used to a more grounded subject matter, this series seems unashamed to revel in its fantastical elements, taking the existence of the fairy world as real and ploughing onwards to see what fun can be had with it. It's not a perfect first issue, and I'm still going to have to be convinced by the larger story that Cornell is telling here, but Wisdom successfully fuses a slick, secret service feel with the more out-there world of fantasy and fairies to give us a solid opener that gets a lot of elements in place without skimping on character development or action. This was an impulse purchase for me, but I'll definitely keep reading to see what happens next.
What did you think of this book?
Have your say at the Line of Fire Forum!