Taking a trip with Professor Phineas B. Fuddle Created by mgcolbaugh on 1/4/2013 6:28:23 PM
M. Gabriel Colbaugh reviews the comic miniseries The Remarkable Worlds of Professor Phineas B Fuddle.
When one thinks about Steampunk comics the two that usually come to mind are The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and Lady Mechanika. There has been a smattering of other offerings that haven’t gained as much traction for one reason or another. One of those books is The Remarkable Worlds of Professor Phineas B Fuddle. Created by Boaz and Erez Yakin, the comic follows the misadventures of Professor McKee, an inventor and nephew of the titular character Fuddle, and Professor Angus, a historian and anthropologist. The two are forced to go back in time to track down Professor Fuddle as his antics have potentially doomed all of reality.
The four part miniseries starts off with Victorian era London facing odd occurrences and the greatest scientific minds of the country trying to determine what is going on. When most of those present concur that the man responsible is the King of Prussia, Professors McKee and Angus disagree and try to convince parliament that it’s something else to little avail. Eventually they decide to investigate themselves and see just what’s causing all the mishaps and the appearances of things that should not be. When they find that Professor Fuddle has indeed gone back in time to try to bring modern technology to ancient civilizations to save humanity, he has instead doomed it by throwing everything out of whack.
The writing is quick paced and witty, tinged with British slang and sensibility. The natives that they come across are a mixture of both alien, and heavily influenced by the Victorian inventor who has brought new information and ideas to them. The story follows a basic pattern of coming across a new reality and then getting caught between the powers that be who abuse their power that Fuddle wanted for the people, and those who would see that power shared. Each of the three locations he goes to, Egypt, India, and pre-Renaissance England, are a struggle that Angus and McKee find themselves in the middle of and unintentionally helping to fix. The repetition doesn’t really take away from the story, though it would have been nice to see at least a little deviation of the pattern.
The art could potentially throw some folks off. The lines aren’t quite as neat, at least as far as characters go, as some other artists. The backgrounds are grand in scale and beautiful; with the colorist doing an amazing job of working with the lines he was given. The characters are very expressive and convey emotion wonderfully despite the slightly uneven style. I didn’t find it jarring enough to interfere with my enjoyment of the story, though it could stop some.
One thing I found interesting about the story is just how much it seemed to comment on the Victorian ideology when it came to other cultures. While people have long thought that their way of doing things was superior to other people, it could be argued this was taken to a whole new level during the Victorian Era. Europeans went out around the world to conquer and bring ‘enlightenment’ to the savage masses. In this case the title character, Professor Fuddle, decides to do just that. The result is the near destruction of reality as everyone knows it. While Fuddle does have a major impact on advancing each society he visits technologically to a considerable degree, it’s arguable he does more harm than good in most cases. It’s interesting to see the Yakins seem to be commenting on what is considered to be a rather negative left over of a time of great advancement.
Overall, The Wonderful Worlds is a rather fun romp and leans heavily on the idea of Victorian speculative fiction. There are quite a number of Steampunk elements mixed in with both the art and story, and could actually lead people to be inspired to new costume ideas beyond what is normally seen in the current culture. While not necessarily the deepest story, the commentary on Victorian ideals is rather interesting to see being deconstructed by the authors of the book. You can generally find used copies available on eBay, and in some comic stores. They aren’t very expensive and might just inspire some new ideas for people.
Correspondent M. Gabriel Colbaugh spends most of his time serving as a technical writer for a waste-water treatment firm, but otherwise spends time writing about steampunk and enjoying fine haberdashery. He lives in Las Vegas with his wife and two furry children, River and Isabela. He also works to maintain the Las Vegas Steampunk Tea Society with a host of others.