25 September 2017

Tell a Good Story - Issue #5: Figment

Spoiler Free Synopsis: London, 1910. Blarion Mercurial, also known as Blair, has a brilliant mind, but was he was born and raised in poverty until Chairman Illocrant recognizes his gift and brings him to the Academy Scientifica-Lucidus. The brightest minds of the Academy have been tapped with finding a new source of energy, but Blair has chosen to disregard this mandate and attempt to unlock the power of the mind with his Integrated Mesmonic Convertor. Unfortunately, his first attempt leads to fire and destruction at the Academy. A second attempt brings forth his childhood imaginary friend, Figment.

Between hiding Figment from Chairman Illocrant and being given seven days to produce something innovative or else return to a penniless life, the stressors Blair is under begins to take its toll. A last ditch effort to make his machine work, while continually ignoring the insights of Figment, leads to Blair reversing the mesmonic flow and opening a portal to the realms of his imagination that immediately sucks Figment and Blair in.

What dangers and wonders await our pair of heroes? What will become of the portal left unattended at the Academy? If the portal is a doorway, what could come through from the other side? And how will Blair ever realize his full potential and become the Dreamfinder?

Disney Source Material: Figment moves readers away from the Disneyland and Magic Kingdom source attractions for the first time. With a shift to Epcot we get arguably one of the most unique attractions ever conceived by Imagineering, Journey Into Imagination. The attraction centered around the Dreamfinder and Figment, his favorite figment of imagination, as they traveled to the Dream Port and across various art forms where imagination is a crucial skill. The details of the attraction were fleshed out by Tony Baxter, Andrew Gaskill, and X Atencio to name just a few. One Little Spark, the main theme song of the attraction and instant ear worm, was the work of none other than the Sherman Brothers.

Journey Into Imagination still holds a special place in many guests’ hearts. While the attraction itself has gone through multiple iterations since, the current version returned Figment to the pavilion, has several nods to the original installation (including one to Dreamfinder), and even utilizes portion of One Little Spark. Figment himself has been utilized as a mascot for Epcot and its festivals for several years. The original attraction may no longer be present in the park, but its legacy lives in the hearts of these guests, making any adaptation instantly beloved and scrutinized at the same time.

Marvel Storytelling: Jim Zub was the writer tasked with creating the origin story for Dreamfinder and Figment. With a career that includes work at DC, Marvel, Image, UDON, and IDW, not to mention Wizards of the Coast, it takes a good bit of imagination to move between the various stories he’s had a hand in creating, so it’s no wonder he was tapped here. Taking something that people already love and giving it new life is never easy, especially in the day and age when there are so many fanfiction stories that readers could be clinging too, but Zub is up to the challenge.

Filipe Andrade handles the main art duties for the five issue series, but this isn’t his first visit to the Disney Kingdoms, as he filled in for the third issue of Seekers of the Weird. The artwork is good and keeps each of the worlds and realms visited clearly defined, with some terrific designs around artifacts and locations. When it comes to characters, however, there are some serious inconsistencies that warp features in strange ways from time to time, and that’s not just stretching the boundaries of imagination. Meanwhile, coloring is managed by Jean-Francois Beaulieu, who has kept the palette crisp and clean for Seekers of the Weird, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, and The Haunted Mansion.

With the wide ranging themes and locations visited in quick succession throughout the story makes Figment work better as a collected volume rather than individual issues. Blair is not the Dreamfinder guests and readers know and love here. In fact, there is an argument that he isn’t even that character by the end of the story, but we’ll save those thoughts for when we get into Figment 2. Speaking of Figment, his high energy, hard to focus, lovable nature is the purest beam of light and narrative throughout the entirety of the story.

Bonus Time: The Figment collected volume gives us one of the great bonus material sections of all of the Disney Kingdoms stories. Before we even get into the comic itself, we are treated to a two page preface from Tony Baxter himself. Throughout it we learn more about the imagination behind the Imagineering process, the creation of Figment and his tie to Magnum, P.I, and the Sherman Brothers’ song. As expected, cover art appears throughout, with concept art and variant covers taking up a portion of the concluding section of the volume. There is also a ton of concept work from the Journey Into Imagination attraction, including character concepts and five double-page splashes of concept art from Tony Baxter, Andrew Gaskill, and Dan Goozee.

Conclusion: Considering how gorgeous, ornate, and meticulous the Journey Into Imagination attraction was, the bar was very high for the Figment Disney Kingdoms story. What I didn’t want to see was a rehash of the attraction itself, and this origin story certainly isn’t that. This story takes place in a time where imagination and science were both coming to life and being challenged in unique ways, but not when you’d expect to see Dreamfinder and Figment. The story clearly sets a foundation for the future adventures of the imaginative, lovable duo, but it takes a long time to get through this prelude. While I feel that this volume is a bit too convoluted for its own good and could have been shortened to a pair of issues at most, it held enough of my interest and gave me enough questions to see what lies ahead for our heroes in their Dream Machine. I’d recommend setting yourself up to read Figment and its sequel, Figment 2, back-to-back for a fully-fledged experience.

Further Reading:
Tell a Good Story – Issue #5: Figment

1 comment:

Mini-V said...

I just found out last week that a friend of ours was a "close personal friend" of the Dreamfinder years ago.