Sunday, 21 July 2013

Faction Paradox

I should probably preface this review with a brief explanation. Faction Paradox is a franchise-cum-brand that span off from the BBC’s line of Doctor Who novels in the early 2000s. They were a time travelling cult that, unsurprisingly, aimed to create paradoxes throughout time. They dressed in latex outfits with bones strapped to them and made blood sacrifices. The time travel bit’s the most important, but mentioning everything else helps give an accurate idea of what’s being dealt with.

The Faction was created by a guy called Lawrence Miles and were intended to be semi-recurring characters in that line of books. When other authors started, to paraphrase Miles, writing them wrong he withdrew them from the BBC’s line and established them in their own.

Doing that involved a fair bit of creativity on his part. While the Faction, its characters and their War were his intellectual property their surroundings were not. They were firmly a part of the BBC’s Doctor Who franchise, which would return to television to some critical acclaim a couple of years after Miles left. That necessitated Miles restructuring the bits of Doctor Who history pertinent to Faction Paradox (most notably Time Lords and TARDISes) so that he could use them.

That led to The Book of the War, a reference book for the Faction. That in turn led to a series of novels (only one of which Miles wrote before either becoming bored or falling out with the publishers) and audios. Those were followed by a comic book deal being signed.

All of this should give you an idea of how incredibly niche the Faction Paradox comic was. It was a spinoff of what was at the time an old, ropey BBC kids show that had first appeared in a handful of books. The number of people who would have even been aware of what Faction Paradox was when the comics hit the shelves was marginal. The number of those people who’d have cared upon recognising what they were looking at was smaller still.

Making things even tougher for the comic was the fact that no concessions were made for newcomers. It got cancelled after two issues due to horrendous sales. Those were surely the result of the generally impenetrable nature of the book and the tiny target market.

When I sat down to read the two issues I’d read only one or two of the BBC novels in which they originally appeared. I hadn’t read the reference book or any of the novels. I had however read various Wikipedia entries on them and several interviews with Lawrence Miles and was well-versed enough in Doctor Who mythology to cope with any references that could crop up with regards to that.

Even with this decent amount of knowledge I found issue one a tough read.

Clearly there would have been people out there more familiar with Faction Paradox than me and they no doubt would have understood exactly what was going on and picked up on every cryptic remark made by the seemingly endless parade of enigmatic mystiques. But those aren’t the people who should be written to. Even my relatively small amount of knowledge shouldn’t have been catered to.

The book failed because it didn’t start from scratch. Hints and teases should have been dropped in regarding the nature of Faction Paradox. Had the “time travelling voodoo cult” (the internet’s favourite, and largely misleading, way of quickly describing them) image been cultivated a little more and the Faction members been kept as mysteries in the background I think issue one could have done a little better. It was always going to be a book unlikely to gain success but its best chance at doing so would have been to give newcomers enough of a reason to be interested enough to pick up issue two.

The plot is fairly hard to sum up. In fairness this is partly because only two issues exist so there were likely things that would have come to light in issue three and beyond. The general shape of the story hints at something involving the Faction, the British Empire, the fledging United States and a time paradox being created. What exists is, to all intents and purposes, gibberish that gives nobody sane any reason to want any more.

For anyone previously aware of the spinoff franchise and desperate for anything related to it I imagine those two issues were a real treat and that the cancellation came as a blow. There was potential there for comics to be the medium that carried Faction Paradox forward. To anyone with a passing knowledge and interest, or no idea of what faction Paradox were at all, they’re a frustrating read. I’d suggest buying them on eBay if you’re a Faction Paradox fan, but the likelihood is that if you’re a fan you already own them and if you’re not you don’t want to.

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