By: Simon Oliver (story), Robbi Rodriguez (art), Rico Renzi (colors)

The Story: And now, for the ol’ shooting a man from a particle collider trick.

The Review: I think I speak for quite a few other people when I say that coming up with a name for something, anything, is probably one of the most annoying tasks for a project.  You’re trying to hit on something that sounds snappy enough to subconsciously stick in people’s brains, that’s not cheesy or lame or cliché, and that also encapsulates—or at least suggests—the core of your work.  That’s a lot of baggage for what is really the least important part of a story.

So I imagine Oliver was none too plussed to discover that someone else already had dibs on Collider, forcing him to make a quick name-change to the clearly inferior FBPCollider had a nice ring to it, and besides instantly conveying a sense of action and conflict, also had appropriately scientific connotations as well. FBP, on the other hand, is a dry blurb that reveals and implies nothing, especially to the person scanning the stands for a new comic to read.

But as they say, a rose by any other name…*  Whether called Collider or FBP, Oliver’s story remains a casual piece of sci-fi whose straightforward narrative and minimum of pseudo-scientific babble should give it broad appeal.  Conceptually, the series ups its game by taking a leap from localized losses of gravity to duplicate bubble dimensions growing off from our own, though it’s really the FBP’s travel by Human Transport Collider that embodies the freewheeling, devil-may-care attitude of this title.

Once inside this Bubbleverse, however, there’s not much to suggest that our agents have entered an altogether different world from own, much less one that’s “way better.”  Here, Oliver has an opportunity to really get the brain working, to explain how this baby parallel universe functions or the extent of sentience its denizens have.  Aside from a grotesque bit of molecular mash-up, however, we don’t get much time to experience the Bubbleverse before Oliver stubbornly pushes on with a conspiracy plot revolving around Agent Jay.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m as curious as Cicero about what Jay’s up to.  It’s clear the veteran agent knows more about this mini-dimension than he lets on, and Cicero implies that something from the real world was purposely sucked into the Bubbleverse as it spawned.  But Oliver’s moving way too fast with these story developments, heaping on the twists before we even get a chance to care.  Backstabs are common wounds in fiction, but they only give us pain if we’re attached to the victims first.  At this point, the relationship between Jay and Adam falls neatly in the classic mentor-rookie category, but there’s not much definition besides that.  Does it get any more cliché than, “[H]e saw something in me, and he gave me a chance when no one else would”?*

More than the skill with which Rodriguez delivers his art, it’s the charisma that draws your eye and engages you.  If Sean Murphy was drawing in the Caribbean with a few Coronas coursing through his veins, you might get a fair approximation of Rodriguez’s work here.  While he puts plenty of attention and detail and pizzazz into the visuals, he does so in a laidback fashion that feels spontaneous, organic, and unpredictable—just what the script ordered.  It’s Renzi’s colors that really make the art, though; the bold combination of hues, particularly his use of purple in all its various shades, is hip to the point of being nearly hipster.

Conclusion: Slow down and buy the reader a drink first, huh?  Oliver is a skilled storyteller, but too eager to move on to the juicy stuff without letting you get properly acquainted with his world.  That kind of rushing does not lend itself to long-term affection, no matter how wild and entertaining a ride it is.

Grade: B

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: * Although the ladies probably wouldn’t be half as thrilled to receive a dozen RCEs for Valentine’s Day.

* Anyone else hear clear echoes of Agents K and J in Men in Black with that summation?