Mr. Vertigo Reviews 37: FBP: Federal Bureau of Physics

FBP 1FBP: Federal Bureau of Physics Vol. 1: The Paradigm Shift
Simon Oliver, writer; Robbi Rodriguez, artist; Rico Renzi, colorist
Vertigo Comics

This is the ongoing series that was originally titled Collider, but was changed after the first issue was already out due to a rights conflict with the name. There are copies of Issue #1 with both titles. It’s set in the contemporary U.S. (somewhere in the Southwest, judging by the weather reports), but the world has been fundamentally changed. Disturbances in the laws of physics have become as common as weather disturbances, causing quantum events like localized momentary gravity loss. In response the government created the Federal Bureau of Physics, who go out into the field to repair the fabric of the universe.

Special Agent Adam Hardy is the focal character. His father–who disappeared when he was an infant–was a physics professor who first discovered the fundamental changes in the laws of physics. In the title story arc Adam (along with his partner Jay and their supervisor Cicero) first respond to a gravity failure at a high school. But that event is small potatoes compared to the bubble universe that pops up, which requires a rescue mission for the people trapped inside.

Nice visual representation of the BubbleVerse once they’re inside it: the art depicts the unreality by becoming more cartoon-like, with a subtle but identifiable change in the coloring. The shady activities we’ve seen Jay engage in come to a head almost right away. He tries to kill Adam (despite having saved his life during the mission at the school), but fails due to the bizarre physics in this alternate world. Adam returns with his rescue, but Jay is betrayed by whoever hired him to sabotage the mission. It looks like a private corporation is working to undermine the FBP so they can provide commercial physics protection services.

So it’s a complex world, with large mysteries set up for exploration. A great start, and the most engaging new Vertigo ongoing series in some time.

The next issue, “Things That Have Been,” finds Adam taking a break and visiting his uncle. This is also where his father’s RV is parked, and Adam finally gets a look at his father’s files and hears the story about his “death.” That’s in quotes, because he was swept up in a quantum tornado, and we’ve already seen how unpredictable quantum events can be.

The final two-part arc, “There’s Something About Rosa,” introduces Adam’s new partner at the FBP: Agent Rosa Reyes. Enigmatic at first, we soon learn her own strange history with a quantum event. She becomes involved with criminals who are using unauthorized physics equipment for crimes, another possibility in this changed world. Her new team has her back in a big way. And Adam’s investigation into one of his father’s associates starts to bear fruit. Lance Blackwood was the man who videotaped the professor’s last mission, probably stole his final notes, and is involved with the company that is capitalizing on the privatization of physics protection.

A short section in the back covers character design, coloring (which plays an especially large role), and  the design of the first cover.

FBP 2

FBP Federal Bureau of Physics Vol. 2: Wish You Were Here
Simon Oliver, writer; Robbi Rodriguez, artist; Rico Renzi, colorist
Vertigo Comics

Things take an odd (or even odder, anyway) twist in the second installment of this Vertigo series. The FBP team spends the entire title arc visiting an experimental facility in Nakeet, Alaska that is about to be shut down. The twist is that the place is home to a device that allows users to create their own quantum reality. We gradually come to realize that Agent Adam Hardy and his new partner Agent Rosa Reyes are hooked up together…so everything in this volume may or may not take place in the “real world.”

Since the pair are sharing a reality, their adventures reflect their obsessions. Adam seeks the man who stole his missing father’s research, but the rich, reclusive, Mister Blackwood may not want to be found. Rosa wants to find the reality where she and her family lived happily, instead of being torn apart. Although it’s possible that the conclusion still isn’t real, the quantum reality stories probably have to be seen as more of a view into the agents’ psyches than anything else. Adam’s vision of his quest is full of paranoia, and Rosa wants her happy childhood back so badly that she refuses to leave the quantum reality until the last moment.

But she does it to help Adam, so their partnership seems strong. There’s some quantum reality intimacy she denies, and she brought back a quantum reality device they’re keeping secret. The big surprise comes at the end, when they discover that Blackwood wants to meet Rosa, not Adam. So if the story arc is a reset loop in some ways, in others it sets up several intriguing possibilities.

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About marksullivan5

Librarian, Jazz musician, comic book fan
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