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Sunday Slugfest – Foundation #1

Posted: Sunday, January 6, 2008
By: Keith Dallas

John Rozum
Chee
Boom! Studios
Editor’s Note: The first issue of Foundation arrives in stores this Wednesday, January 9.





Average Rating:

Bruce Logan:
Robert Murray:
Thom Young:

SPOILER WARNING: The following reviews discuss plot developments of the issue.






Bruce Logan:

Exclamation: “Yet another reason not to use airport washrooms!”

Explanation: (Almost) the entire issue takes place in an airport and goes as follows. Woman walks up and “accidentally” drops ketchup on the knee of a man. Man goes to the washroom to clean up said pants only to be kidnapped by a second man. The second man holds the first one until the flight takes off and then leaves himself. Flight crashes. Cut to the second man sweating bullets in a hotel room only to get a call about yet another “mission.”

Examination (Story): The most important thing that I have to say about Foundation #1 is that it would have helped to have some inkling of as to why its characters (i.e. the kidnappers) were acting the way they were. I just wanted to get this out there because in the absence of any such preliminary information their actions—and by that way the entire issue—has the total weight of a feather in gale force winds. Sure, the premise of the series is an interesting one, but that information I got only after having read the entire issue and that too not from its pages. It is based on my perception of this issue independently and exclusively that I have rated it. For a series opener Foundation #1 provides a weak start.

That said, it does have some intriguing ideas going for it. A secret society based on making or stopping possible (potentially world changing) events from happening, all based on the prophecies of Nostradamus. Seen in that light, Valentine and his pals’ actions make much more sense, as does his internal monologue after letting go of his “hostage.” Unfortunately, this brings me back to my opening statements and any budding interest getting snipped in the bud.

Still, there is a small part of me which wonders how different my reaction would be had there been a slightly different opening scene, even if it were only a page or two to give enough of a, pardon the pun, foundation to Foundation.

Examination (Art): The artwork is the best thing about Foundation #1 though that’s not saying much in the current situation. In a case of making lemonade out of lemons, artist Chee tries to inject all the life he can through his expressive (if a bit wooden sometimes) characters. Unfortunately, the static backgrounds coupled with the subdued colors diminish the final impact.

Proclamation: This issue seriously needed a prelude of sorts. Left on its own, Foundation #1 has very little to stand on, let alone generate any substantial interest for future issues.

You can find more reviews by Bruce Logan at www.xcave.net




Robert Murray:

Finally! After months and months of searching for a Boom! Studios title that was worth the $3.99 cover price, I have discovered The Foundation, a solidly written and illustrated comic book that teems with tons of potential for the future. Of course, I mean the future of the mini-series, not the future of the world at large, which is what the group at the center of this comic is attempting to preserve. You see, the Foundation is an organization that utilizes Nostradamus’ prophecies in order to maintain a better world. Now, before you go thinking that this is some hokey concept that deserves to be in a History Channel special rather than a serious comic book, know that writer John Rozum is covering dramatic and philosophical aspects in his story rather than pathological elements. Our main character, Valentine, is a man torn by his desire to do some good in this crazy world, yet fearful of confirming that we live in a reality that is scripted and that humans don’t possess free will. While this type of heavy topic has a tendency to weigh down most fiction, Rozum does a nice job pacing this first issue, sticking to the scene of the first operation and letting internal dialogue paint the picture of where the series is headed. Ably assisting in this pacing is Chee, whose style of illustration is appropriately suited for a story such as this. Overall, this is a perfect starting point for this series, creating a reality for readers to follow in the months ahead as well as telling a simple tale that is full of deeper meaning and ramifications. While I wouldn’t describe Foundation as a fun read, it is an example of an entertaining comic book that is rigidly sticking to the premise it is built on.

Like I said, Rozum begins this series with the Foundation out on a mission, in this case protecting a potentially important man from certain death in an airline accident. I was initially compelled by two elements of this tale. First, the resources that this organization has at its disposal are astonishing, as the members are easily able to manipulate the high security of an airport for their purposes. Second, the amount of doubt that inhabits Valentine’s mind during this assignment is intriguing, as they are the same kinds of doubts any introspective person would have when you test the wheels of fate. Am I actually accomplishing the good deed I am attempting to enact or am I making it worse? What about the other victims I have left to die just to save this one man? These are the kinds of thoughts that would keep any normal person awake for months, and this is what Agent Valentine has to deal with on a daily basis. How does he do it? Also, an element that is sure to come up in the near future is the political center of the Foundation. Who is deciding what the right and wrong choices are in this game of fate? What political agenda informs these decisions? In this year of potential political divisiveness in the U.S., this plot rings more true now than ever before. However, you don’t have to be a presidential pundit to enjoy this well-written comic. The pace is properly maintained and contained for the duration of the issue, though the internal dialogue could have been a tad less wordy. I don’t know much about John Rozum, but I can say that he is a writer who understands how to script a comic book, which has me favorably anticipating the rest of this series.

As for Chee, his artwork is perfect for the introspective tone of this first issue. While I enjoyed his work on War of the Worlds: Second Wave, I thought that his style was better suited for the dramatic scenes rather than the action-filled panels that occurred throughout that series. In Foundation #1, Chee’s heavy lines work to subtle perfection, as the inner turmoil of Valentine is displayed realistically on his rugged face. The emphasis of almost every panel in the comic is on the characters, leaving very little space for fisticuffs and scenery. While this might be a turn-off for the action fans out there, those looking for a fulfilling visual experience will love the easy way in which Chee conveys so very much concerning Valentine and his motivations.

All in all, The Foundation is a multilayered first issue that will definitely hook you for the next installment. Thank you, Boom!, for a comic book that has a substantial quality equal to your fine presentation.




Thom Young:

I volunteered to participate in this slugfest based on the promotional paragraph that was sent out for The Foundation:
History shows that in the 1500s, Nostradamus’ three volumes of prophesies were best-sellers, making him a rich man. But what the world doesn’t know is he took his vast treasure trove of riches and invested them in creating a foundation to prevent his prophesies from occurring... This secret team still functions today, using Nostradamus’ published and unpublished tomes to predict threats to worldwide security!
Between that description and the title of the series, it was obvious that the concept was taken from Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series, which began as a series of short stories published in the science fiction magazine Astounding from 1942-49. Those short stories were collected as Foundation, which became the first novel in a series that would eventually intertwine with two of Asimov’s other series—the Robot series and the Empire series.

In the initial chapters of Foundation, Asimov reveals that a man named Hari Seldon has developed a mathematical approach to sociology called “psychohistory” (which Asimov later admitted was a misnomer for the concept). Seldon’s psychohistory couldn’t predict the specific histories for individuals, but it could determine the probability of social developments.

Using that information, Seldon set up a “Foundation” that was designed to steer human events in the galaxy in order to maintain a course that he determined would bring about a “Second Empire” that would be a “Golden Age” of the future. Those of you who’ve read all or most of the series will know that it gets much more complicated than what I’ve outlined, but I’m just presenting the initial 1942 premise that Asimov came up with.

The parallels between this new comic book series (created by Kody Chamberlain and written by John Rozum) and Asimov’s concept are obvious. Chamberlain and Rozum have transformed the legendary Nostradamus into a 16th century Hari Seldon—equating Nostradamus’s prophecies with Seldon’s psychohistory, and setting up a Foundation.

The two twists to Asimov’s concept are that Nostradamus is able to predict the future of specific individuals, and (according to the promotional paragraph) Nostradamus set up his Foundation to prevent his prophesies from occurring rather than Seldon setting up his to steer events towards the greater probability of the future he desires. That second one may not be that different actually, but it’s difficult to tell after only one issue.

In fact, after this first issue it’s difficult to tell that this series is based on the concept described in Boom!’s promotional paragraph. I was expecting the series to open in the 16th century where we would see Nostradamus setting up his Foundation and revealing his plan. Instead, the series opens in contemporary America as an agent of the nearly 500-year-old Foundation holds a man captive in an airport bathroom so that he can’t board a plane that’s destined to crash—killing all aboard.

The man begins holding the man captive on page seven and frees him on page 20—giving us almost 14 pages of little more than watching one man hold another man at gun point while his internal dialog considers whether this action is ethical (knowing that the rest of the passengers are all going to die, but doing nothing to stop the plane) and whether he will quit the Foundation once this assignment is over.

The other eight pages in this 22-page issue aren’t much more action-packed than those 14 “bathroom captive” pages—with the only real “action” coming on page four when another of the Foundation’s agents spills a cup of ketchup on the target’s pants—which is what sends him to the restroom before he can board his plane.

I’m not one to gripe about a lack of action in a story since I hate mindless fight scenes in superhero comics that serve no purpose other than to increase the “action ratio” of an issue. However, 22 pages of the internal monologue of this Foundation agent is not very riveting—primarily because his contemplation of such things as fate, prophecies, and ethics are on the level that could be expected of a bright college sophomore who’s taken one or two philosophy, theology, and/or ethics courses.

In other words, there’s very little substance to the musings of this Foundation agent.

This series certainly has the potential to develop into something substantial, but there’s nothing in this first issue to indicate that it will—nor is there anything in it that makes me eagerly anticipate the next issue. This first issue ends with the agent having made up his mind to quit the Foundation—even “if they tell [him] Nostradamus, himself, left them instructions to keep [him] there no matter what.”

Of course, the phone then rings and he finds out that the Foundation has another mission for him. Well, if it’s as riveting as the mission was in this first issue, I hope he follows through with his decision to quit the Foundation.

Oh, by the way, the Foundation agent’s name is Valentine. I just discovered that fact as I re-read the last page to quote the passage I included two paragraphs up. It’s never a good sign when, after reading a story, an attentive reader (which I consider myself to be) can’t recall the names of any of the characters in the story and thinks of them as “Foundation agent,” “bathroom captive,” “woman who spills the ketchup,” et cetera.



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