Posted on March 25, 2008 by Flames
Self-published books are a bit of a mixed bag. For every profoundly cutting edge and original idea, there are at least two more that should never have had the opportunity to grace a page, neither paper nor digital. It’s a landscape through which one must navigate a myriad of wanna-be’s and never-will-be’s in order to stumble upon the occasional brilliant talent. However, one thing that all self-published writers deserve is acknowledgment of their effort which transcends the craft itself and goes into realms much different than the arts, such as marketing and financing.
Axiom-Man: Of Magic and Men, the latest graphic novel written by self-publisher A.P. Fuchs and featuring artwork by Sean Simmons, is a microcosm of the world in which Fuchs operates. That is, it’s a bit of a mixed bag.
Axiom-Man is a superhero whose true identity is a bumbling social introvert named Gabriel Garrison. Gabriel works in an office and he’s madly in love with Valerie Vaughn, the gorgeous coworker who predictably won’t give him the time of day. Axiom-Man’s conduit to the rest of the world, especially its seedy underbelly, is Sgt. Jack Gunn, an old school lawman with whom he shares a love-hate-love relationship of mutual necessity. If you’re keeping track, that’s one Superman, a Clark Kent, Lois Lane with a twist of Vicky Vale, and a generous helping of Commissioner Gordon. These clichés don’t exactly stop this story dead, but they certainly don’t make for the most compelling read either.
The interesting aspect of Fuchs’ story is its villain. First we learn that people have been going missing all over the city, only to return sometime later, broken and brutally disfigured. The culprit is known as The Magic Man, a fiend who preys upon those who are vulnerable, who’ve recently suffered great loss or misfortune. He lures unsuspecting victims to his underworld by promising them what they want and then torturing them. Axiom-Man uses his own vulnerability – his unrequited love for Valerie – as a way to lure The Magic Man to him and allow himself a trip to the underworld. An inevitable showdown ensues capped off by a surprising if not plausible ending.
There are particular scenes and even whole sequences where Fuchs shows great promise as an up and coming writer. The short bit establishing the nature of Gabriel and Valerie’s relationship is well crafted as it elicits empathy for and characterizes our protagonist, while it drips out necessary exposition in a very concise and efficient manner. The sequence recalling Gregory Janson’s encounter with the Magic Man, a father who wanted one more time with his recently deceased boy only to be whipped and then sent shambling through the streets carrying his son’s diminutive rotting corpse, is deeply disturbing and strikes a powerful emotional resonance.
The problem with Of Magic and Men is that the bulk of the story is comprised of well-worn men-in-tights conventions, but without the substance or story telling acumen to keep them interesting. Fuchs too often falls back on inner monologue style explanations of events where we read Axiom-Man/Gabriel’s introspective musings about stuff, ala Batman, only there’s really no psychological conflict to sustain any tension so most of what’s said/thought contributes nothing to the story.
A.P. Fuchs certainly has the ability to articulate specific moods and emotions and to verbally paint vivid scenes. He has a promising future. However, I believe his weakness here is a misapplication of the fundamental tenants of story telling, namely structure and mechanics. It’s simple really. Your protagonist must want something and face escalating opposition in getting it. The by-product of this scenario is called plot and it’s the only thing that makes your story play. Gabriel’s desire for Valerie’s companionship fits this mold, but unfortunately it’s relegated to two short scenes and this lack of conflict proves detrimental to the graphic novel.
Sean Simmons’ artwork is par for the course. There are wonderfully dynamic pages and well framed panels amid lackluster pages of uniformly sized and shaped panels and static compositions. Again, though – The Magic Man material at the beginning of the book is the most vivid, detailed, and interesting. The rest is hit and miss.
Overall, Axiom-Man: Of Magic and Men is as interesting a read as it is boring, it’s as original as it is derivative and I’m not sure its latent promise is ready for mass consumption. Both Fuchs and Simons have the stuff, they just need to refine it.
2 out of 5
Review by Jason Thorson