1988: Hand of Fate

Hand of Fate (1988) #1-3 by Bruce Jones, Gérald Forton et al.

I think this may be Bruce Jones’ final series for Eclipse Comics. He made a pretty brief return in 87/88 with a handful of titles, but none survived beyond three issues (but it’s unclear that any of them were meant to be continuing series).

This one certainly has a structure that would lend itself to go on indefinitely: It’s basically a prototype for all those “supernatural FBI” TV shows. Every week there’s a new monster, and you have a detective doing the procedure to uncover the truth.

But the most striking thing about the first issue is the layout, really. It looks like it has been drawn to be printed in a larger format, but the aspect ratio is not the album format aspect ratio. (And the lettering is very small.)

The gutter-less panels are also an unusual an striking element.

Bruce Jones tried to break into the TV business, so I wonder whether this originated as a pitch. It’s very high concept: It’s about a private detective who’s emulating the 40s fictional detectives, and his sidekick is a kick-ass psychic, and he has a raven as a pet. You can tell that to a TV exec during an elevator ride, right? Why didn’t anybody option it? I’d watch it.

And these three issues are a pleasant read on that level: Each issue is, like, one of the monster-of-the-week episodes of X-Files. No long-running intrigues, just a new mystery every issue, and it’s well-told and fun.

Forton’s artwork can be rather odd, though. He draws each body part well, but when it comes to combining them, he’s often slightly off, like with that head too much to the right.

And then suddenly her neck is three times as long.

There’s a lot of that going on.

But otherwise, it’s quite pleasant. He doesn’t cheat: Does nice backgrounds; it flows well; the characters are good-looking.

And then! Suddenly he switches from four tiers with no gutters to three tiers with gutters in the middle of the issue. And the lettering grows larger. So the first dozen pages were drawn with a bigger format in mind, but then they decided on standard-size floppy format instead, and the drew the rest of the pages like this?

While the bulk of each issue is a procedural, we get slightly supernatural monsters. But scientific monsters, even if one of the protagonists are psychic. It’s not unusual for the genre to mix and match, though.

I’m guessing the series didn’t sell well, because the third and final issue is in black and white. But it’s the one with the best artwork, so never mind. I love this initial sequence told from the cat’s eye level, and I can well imagine that Jones had specced this out as a TV episode.

But that’s it for the series. It’s never been reprinted or collected. It’s not that surprising, because this is episodic light entertainment, but on the other hand, I was entertained, so…

It doesn’t seem to have made much expression on teh intertubes, but there’s this:

This comic is a well-plotted and exciting private eye mystery, though I’m not sure the plot made complete sense. Gerald Forton’s art is kind of Ditkoesque. His opening splash panel, which is a top-down view of Fate’s office, is impressive.

Oh! Forton is French and had been doing comics since the 50s. That explains the nice interiors.

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