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

The Story: Out of the course of a speeding bullet, into the cab of a barreling truck.

The Review: So—Friday the 13th is upon us!  And aside from a jarring moment this afternoon when I thought I was about to get crushed against the side of a street lamp by a girl-Yuppie, clearly texting as she erratically guided her Volvo down the street as though it was driverless, it seems I managed to survive unscathed.  What better way to celebrate than to review a comic where an entire universe is about to collapse on itself—and it’s not even Friday the 13th there.

To be fair, this is the Bubbleverse we’re talking about and it is in the nature of bubbles to pop, sooner or later.  In fact, it entirely makes sense to us that the bursting of something so massive and fantastic would leave splash damage on the real world.  Yet, in another indication of how truly unpredictable all these physics phenomena are, Cicero and his mentor, Yarab, mention that “blowback” from the Bubbleverse’s collapse is only as likely as the proverbial camel-through-needle.  That is, unless someone were to “take any doubt out of the equation.”

That is where Jay’s treachery, under the orders of his mustachioed employer, comes in.  Last time, I theorized that the two men had arranged for something to transfer into the Bubbleverse upon its spawning, but the logistics are, predictably enough, actually more complicated that.  You may not know what a “Faraday cage” is,* but you don’t actually need the analogy to understand that somehow, Jay and his collaborator managed to create some stable, usable duplicated objects in the Bubbleverse, and they are set to blow the whole thing down.

But to what end?  Again, Oliver smartly offers some suggestions while leaving room for later development.  Previous issues indicated that the viability of the FBP was up in the air, and here we get confirmation via news media punditry: “Well, with a successful FBP operation, it makes a strong case against current moves to deregulate the physics control industry.”  You don’t get a much balder exposition of the stakes and motivation than that.  Obviously, someone stands to profit handsomely without the FBP’s oversight of physics phenomena.

So Adam has more than just his and his rescuee’s lives on his shoulders; the fate of the whole FBP depends on his return.  Actually, you have little doubt that he’ll make it through.  It’s not just the usual confidence of a protagonist early in his fictional life.  The fact that Adam narrates the issue and speaks on Jay’s plans in the past tense guarantees his survival.  Indeed, Oliver has moved his pieces on the board so carefully, you can even see how the game will play out.  With Cicero already working out a theory of the conspiracy at work, Adam can expect help from the outside, despite the obstacle of a “broken epi-injet,” the only ticket out of the Bubbleverse.

While Oliver carefully builds up the tension of his story, he also takes some time to show a bit of Adam’s past.  As charismatic and snarky as Adam seems, you’ve always sensed an edgy undercurrent beneath that free-flowing attitude, and now you know why.  Oliver adds a slightly new spin to the age-old abandonment issues—sending Adam’s dad to “go chasing quantum tornadoes” instead of fetching cigarettes from the corner store—but it’s really the fact that Adam took on his old man’s work when that work was what led to his unhappy childhood that gives his job in the FBP a personal dimension.

You can liken Rodriguez’s art to the almost hyperactive energy you get from manga.  His thin linework practically vibrates from the action in the issue, and the loose, agile, utterly comfortable way Adam moves definitely reminds you of the way characters in Japanese comics leap through the air in seemingly impossible yet effortless ease, especially when Adam slides down the side of skyscraper, using his heel to come to a scraping, smoking brake.  Rodriguez’s lines are terrific on their own, but Renzi’s colors are what makes them spectacular, highlighting all the fantastic effects of the Bubbleverse in raucous, out-of-this-world pinks and yellows.

Conclusion: Some highly kinetic art and very good forward movement here, though the issue perhaps signals its next moves a little more loudly than it should.

Grade: B+

-Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: * At least, not without a quick Wiki: “…an enclosure formed by conducting material or by a mesh of such material…blocks external static and non-static electric fields.”

– Looking at the similarity between Yarab and Jay’s employer, especially in the handlebar mustaches, could there be a relationship between the two?