Fabula Zero: Exposition
I had the immense pleasure of reading Nick Davis’ first foray into sequential story telling: Fabula Zero: Exposition (Which can be found Here) At first it reads much like you’d expect a conventional comic book to read. A hero, Captain Avenger, is attempting to foil the evil schemes of a villain, Doctor Dark. Page 7 things take a quite unexpected turn though, and page 8 throws your expectations right out the window.
Is this the real life?
Fabula Zero’s main premise is that a comic writer has been tasked with the honor of writing for one of the worlds most beloved comic book characters have the retirement of the previous writer. From the start you are told of a “black book”, and the repeated mantra of “Find your ending”. From then on we find our protagonist, Jack, dealing with a rather peculiar problem: the characters he is writing for are talking to him about his writer’s block.
And not just talking to him, they are impacting his life. Be it his stress or the power of the black book he sees these characters as real beings who affect the world around him. The best part about this oddity is how it is portrayed. When he is not talking to Captain Avenger and Doctor Dark the book is written in non-illustrated prose, much like you’d expect any book. But, when the comic characters appear to him, the book turns into a comic. This media mash up, the mix between novel and comic, is the real strength of the novel. It is also the weakness, as it serves to interrupt the flow. This is more of a strength than a weakness, but it is amplified when some of the comic panels have word bubbles that take a second to determine proper reading order. Despite this issue the “gimmick” of the novel works spectacularly to emphasize the strengths of the story.
We must go deeper
There are a lot of themes in this book that even the writer will probably argue with me as to my readings of, but I would like to point out the areas of interest I found when analyzing the book along deeper lines.
1. “Find your ending”. This line is repeated multiple times throughout the book, especially by the villain Doctor Dark. This is an essential part to the story, what do you do with a story that wasn’t yours to begin with? You end it your way. What is fascinating about the line is the person who says it. Doctor Dark, the creation, is speaking out for an end. It would mean his own “death” in a way, but it is what every creation cries out for: completion.
2. Comic vs Novel. Throughout the book “real” life is written in prose, while the fantasies of Nick are done in comic form. I believe this is actually a metaphor for the strengths of both prose and comics. Novels, books, and short stories are excellent at detailing the tiny elements of every day life. They excel on telling stories that are as complicated and full as our real lives. Comics, on the other hand, excel at bringing our imaginations to life. Comics strength is that the character isn’t only in your imagination, they are on the page, able to spring to life at a moments notice.
3. Nick vs Jack. Although I don’t want to point out the author’s personal life, the fact that I know a little bit about his fashion choices, choice of vehicle, and accent, served to keep me entertained by how much of himself Nick put into Jack.
I had fun reading FZE. It isn’t without it’s problems, which are largely flow related, but those are easily forgotten amidst the story. It’s a comic where the main character isn’t the hero, but the person who makes the heroes. I don’t really have a “If you like this you’ll like FZE” reference today. FZE is a step apart from your traditional comic, featuring a mode of story telling that is truly unique. Check out some preview pages on the site, and also check out all of Nick’s stuff at www.alt-world.com