Before Archie Comics announced their intentions to relaunch a handful of their old superhero properties in a new line called "Dark Circle" — but not too long before — Dean Haspiel, Mark Waid and company revived one of those characters in their five-part Fox miniseries that ran from 2013-2014. An all-around excellent series from one of the most reliable writers in the field and an amazing artist who just doesn't get enough opportunities to prove how good he is at drawing superheroes, that first Fox series proved that Archie superhero comics could be just as good — or even far better — than many of those produced by the genre's two leading publishers.

There's every reason to believe that the overall quality of The Fox, and its rather warm reception by readers and critics, had more than a little to do with the creation of Dark Circle. For further, more concrete proof, look no further than the fact that a new Haspiel and Waid ongoing Fox series is part of the new line.

Launching with a first arc entitled Fox Hunt, the new series picks up right where the last one left off, and its title will make sense by the time you get to the last few pages. Paul Patton Jr., son of the original Golden Age crimefighter The Fox, adopted his dad's duds and identity to help further his career as a photojournalist. His logic? By being a superhero, trouble (and the stories that accompany it) will come to him, and he'll be in a prime position to take pictures to sell of the action. (Hey, it worked for Peter Parker!)

In the previous story, since collected in the trade The Fox: Freak Magnet, Patton had come to regard his second identity as something of a curse, as a freak magnet is exactly what he had become, and he was increasingly ambivalent about superheroing, especially now that he had a family to take care of.


Dean Haspiel


Fox Hunt opens with Patton and his son documenting a ghost town that's about to be demolished and flooded in order to provide a river basin for a nearby city — a project funded and spearheaded by CEO/super-criminal kingpin Mr. Smile. True to form, The Fox attracts a freak, and inadvertently ruins Smile's plans, earning a $1 million price on his head — just as he's thinking of hanging up his Fox costume for good, while his son is  secretly considering becoming the new Fox.

Like Haspiel and Waid's previous collaboration, this series was created in the old "Marvel style," with Haspiel telling the story through his art before Waid adds the script. It's a method that has lead to some particularly contentious problems regarding credit in the past, but it's also created some of the greatest superhero comics of all time, like the original runs of Fantastic Four and Spider-Man.

Here it certainly brings out the best in Waid when it comes to dialogue and wordplay, and by freeing him to focus on that side of the story, it gives us a comic book that sounds like a Waid comic, but is shaped and moves rather differently.

Haspiel excels at drawing well-articulated brawny men and sharp-featured women, bringing a cartoony abstraction to their expressions and faces, and a highly kinetic sense of anatomy — never better demonstrated than when The Fox is all suited-up, as his costume reduces him to little more than a featureless figure with a pair of big, Spidey-sized eyes.

Don't let the continuity or the the fact that Archie's Red Circle line is now called Dark Circle discourage you. This first issue is perfectly accessible to new readers, its back story quickly and organically retold in just a handful of panels, and unlike the other Dark Circle book to debut so far — the much darker The Black Hood — it's a bright, fun and all-ages-appropriate comic.

Between the publisher's  recent successful experiments with horror like Afterlife With Archie and Sabrina, and now its superhero revival, Archie Comics seems hellbent on proving that there's much more to them than just gag comics about who Archie will take to the dance and how many hamburgers Jughead will eat (and even that seems to be shifting). I'm convinced.


The Fox #1 is on sale April 8th 2015. Today is the last day for pre-orders. See more variant covers below:


Variant cover by Ulises Farinas


Variant cover by David Mack


Variant cover by Thomas Pitilli