Faction Paradox #1

Written by Lawrence Miles
Pencilled by Jim Calafiore
Inked by Peter Palmiotti
32 pages, color
Published by Image Comics

Have you ever felt like you had an unfair advantage? That’s the impression I got when I picked up Faction Paradox #1 from Image Comics. Unlike most of the readers, I suspect, I’d actually read author Lawrence Miles’s novels that first introduced the time-travelling voodoo cultists of the Faction (Alien Bodies, Interference), so I had a good idea of what to expect. For anyone else, though… I’m not sure this is at all what they’d expect.

It’s 1774, and Empress Catherine of Russia has just sent a live mammoth to the King of England as a gift, as well as a sign of power. The members of Faction Paradox understand what the King does not, however; this is a temporal flux that can be exploited if you know how to use it. As a servant girl prepares the bestiary for the King’s hunt, though, she is about to discover the true nature of the creature to be chased by a number of groups all seeking control of the timelines…

I wasn’t terribly surprised going into Faction Paradox #1 that Miles’s comic book writing is as wonderfully obtuse as his novels. Miles delights in dropping readers into the middle of a situation, gives extremely little information, and lets them puzzle it out. The problem is that with a novel you’ve already bought the entire story so you’re there long haul; with a serialized story in a comic book, there’s got to be an instant hook to get people to buy another issue. The problem is, I’m not sure we have one here. Faction Paradox #1 is almost more window-dressing than anything else; the main cast walks on board, but not much else happens. Lots of random information is imparted to the viewers, but I never felt like there was something so exciting that I had to know what would happen next. It’s too bad, because having read Miles’s books I know how much potential is here, with paradox-creating cultists struggling to grab hold of history and make it their own. Instead there’s not much appearing on the page. Maybe if Miles had decided to give the first issue a full 22 pages of story instead of just 16 (with six pages of text with spot illustrations filling out the balance of content) we might’ve had a little more happen… but it doesn’t.

Jim Calafiore and Peter Palmiotti, on the other hand, do a really nice job of bringing Faction Paradox #1 to life. With his characters’s angled noses and cheekbones, they’ve got a wonderful aristocratic look to them. The character designs use 18th Century fashions to its advantage; there’s a nice formality to the higher classes and an equally shabby look to the lower classes, without ever looking stereotypical. The skull-wearing members of the Faction look wonderfully out of place here, as they should, with their faces hidden away to preserve their mystery. Likewise, the Mayakai has a real sense of power with her wrappings and tattoos. The one thing that doesn’t work, though, is Paul Mounts’s colors. Too much of the art is bright and cheery instead of dark and disturbing, which is something that the story and drawings seem to call for.

In the end, Faction Paradox #1 was a bit of a disappointment. The story was too short and at the end of the first issue I found very little that would make me want to come back. There’s a lot of promise… but I’m not sure that I’ll still be alive when they payoff finally happens. I’ll take a look at the second issue and I hope things pick up, because things could still turn around. Hopefully, other readers will be willing to give it another chance as well. Faction Paradox #1 is on sale now at comic stores everywhere.

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