Review by Karl Verhoven
Science accepted as absolute has begun, in isolated locations, to behave erratically. The Federal Bureau of Physics investigates these phenomena and deals with the consequences. It’s a high concept from Simon Oliver, but characterisation in broad familiar strokes and unappealing art rendered The Paradigm Shift far less of a treat that it might have been.
Much of the same afflicts Wish You Were Here. A plot based on the intricacies of theoretical science, requires explaining in simple terms to those audience members not conversant with the basics, and it drags matters down. The application of quantum theory to a game of pool, for instance, requires just short of two pages of expository dialogue.
The setting is Alaska where a lab run by Professor Sen, a former partner of Agent Cicero, is to be closed down, and the contents transferred elsewhere, including what’s referred to as “a quantum can opener”. In more comprehensible terms it creates a localised effect whereby the knowledge of other realities can be accessed. Agents Adam Hardy and Rosa Reyes are each on a search of their own, but also participants in Sen’s experiment.
Robbi Rodriguez is a frustrating artist, very talented, but choosing to skimp over his figurework in a manner that’s beyond mere style, and not excused by the strangeness of events.
At one point Professor Sen notes “Without wanting to sound like a freshman college student smoking grass for the first time, who’s to say any of this is ‘real’?” When Oliver has to use self-referential dialogue of that nature to quantify his plot, there are problems. It’s a complex twisting of one reality into several, and by the time we’re back to reality as we know it you’ll be wondering if that’s really the case. This is despite a couple of nicely set up surprises.
It’s a common complaint about comics from mainstream publishers that they’re too simple, that they re-work the same limited formula ad infinitum. That’s certainly not an accusation that can be levelled against FBP. Oliver has big ideas, but they’re overly complicated and his plot is too clever for its own acceptance. By the time the rug has been pulled for the fifth time why should anyone care about or believe what they’re reading? The next volume is Audeamus.