US, September 4, 2008 – Licensed books always face the toughest balancing act of all comics. Do they give fans new plots and characters? Do they try to provide more detail to existing scenarios? How much do the readers of the books know about the shows or games they are based on? It’s virtually impossible to hit the right note most of the time, and sadly that’s why most licensed books are, quite frankly, not worth the paper they are printed on. That’s pretty much the case here.
You’re going to see the name “Whedon” on the cover of this issue. Don’t be alarmed, Joss didn’t sneak in a new project. Rather this is from one of his brothers, Zack. Sadly the Whedon magic didn’t find its way to Fringe, though I do wonder how much freedom Whedon and co-writer Julia Cho had here. This book feels like it’s been meddled with. It can’t figure out it’s purpose, as if marketing and PR execs created strict guidelines about what could and could not be included. As I mentioned before – should Fringe provide new information or merely expand upon details available? This issue tries to do both and ultimately stumbles.
I’m in the unique position of having already seen the pilot epsiode of Fringe, which debuts on television next Tuesday. As such, I recognize some of the characters from the show and can tell that Whedon and Cho are trying to add depth to some of them. Unfortunately the usual problem arises – the good stuff is on TV. The rest is here. Fragmented, these characters aren’t nearly as interesting as they are on the show. That’s partly a function of not having the actors, but also the writing and characterization. This first issue is also content to jump around from plot to plot, from character to character. This schizophrenic approach means that no one is appealing and no plot proves too interesting. Even more curious is that the central X-Files-esque mystery proposed here has nothing to do with the opening challenge to the characters in the show (unless the cut of the pilot I saw was completely scrapped, which I doubt). So again, there’s this interest in giving fans something new which doesn’t mesh well with what already exists, and the effort to expand on the existing material comes across as lacking.