Tradewaiter – Fraction

By | October 28th, 2013
Posted in Columns | % Comments

David Tischman and Timothy Green II’s “Fraction”, originally published as six issues in 2004, was first collected in 2011. For those who missed those offerings, a new printing became available earlier this month. But what is this book, and why does it still deserve attention almost a decade after its release?

Written by David Tischman
Illustrated by Timothy Green II

Four friends. Together they survived high school, fights and an excessive amout of partying. However, when getting the gang back together turns hijinks into hijacking, the four break into a storage unit containing a fully operational, high-powered battle suit. When they split the gear between them, how each man uses his new found power will drive the group apart.

With this ultimate weapon, they can do almost anything they want – except get away clean. Now the suit’s manufacturers will stop at nothing to reclaim their prototype. As the group’s actions attract unwanted attention from the law, each man must decide how far he’s willing to go to survive…

At its core, “Fraction” is about friendship and wish fulfillment. The premise is unbelievably simple: four flawed friends find what is essentially an Iron Man suit of armor, and they each take a piece. This quickly leads to trouble with one another, the law, and the owners of the suit.

Tischman does an excellent job of creating characters who feel genuine, with deep flaws, a lack of forethought, and the traces of bitterness that comes with an overdeveloped sense of entitlement. What makes them especially endearing is the lack of self-awareness to any of these weaknesses. Despite all their imperfections, the cast also have redeeming qualities or sympathetic backgrounds which keep them not just likeable, but relatable. You probably haven’t been one of these guys, but you know one of them. Because they’re so realistic, the issues they have with each other and the legal trouble they get into doesn’t just feel natural, but inevitable.

Its the last facet of conflict – the owners of the suit – and related plot points which are the weakest part of the book. While probably a necessary element to provide some external struggles, the extra battle suits end up being a very sour loose end. By design or by a lack of sales, “Fraction” only ran for six issues, and it ends without reaching any kind of resolution in regards to the suit’s owner. This is unfortunate, because it’s a very big black mark on an otherwise well written book.

The covers are all relegated to the back instead of being inserted between issues, and this choice helps to highlight just how well the chapters fit together. Except for the chapter titles and the narration reminding you of the characters’ names, the breaks are invisible. Even a casual glance through the trade makes it clear – “Fraction” was always supposed to be read under one cover.

Green turns in solid artwork. His characters and settings are all visually distinct with enough detail to provide more information than the narrative alone. His style seems influenced at least in part by manga, as numerous backgrounds are filled with nothing but motion lines. He also experiments with using very angular lines for shadows and contours, sometimes to great effect and sometimes to great distraction. The action scenes are all full of life, and Green uses his backgrounds to full effect. When jet boots push off from the ground, the force throws toys and trash into the air, and it can be seen flying and falling for several panels.

However, a closer inspection of the art reveals many of the scenes get a much needed boost from their colors and sound effects.

Colorist Brian Haberlin combines gradients to Green’s motion lines that help to guide the eye and provide more direction to the movement. He also draws your attention to the action in the panel by highlighting certain parts with bright, full colors in a panel with an otherwise subdued and graded palettes. Haberlin also experiments with some interesting backdrops in panels where Green hasn’t provided much, if any direction. The effect helps to set the mood and keeps the pages from looking bland.

Continued below

The six issues were covered by four letterers – Jared K. Fletcher, Rob Leigh, Phil Balsman, and Pat Brosseau. The credits don’t make it clear who did which parts of the book, but they were able to keep a consistent look throughout thanks to the direction of editors Joan Hilty and Harvey Richards. The word balloons were standard and mostly unremarkable, but their sound effects were handled with great skill. While the actual onomatopoeia is easy to skim without really noticing, its placement and contrasting color helps draw the eye to where the action is happening in the panel. In several instances, due to perspective, size, or a large amount of activity, they help bring clarity and focus to an otherwise crowded panel.

The collection is billed at eighteen dollars, which works out to the industry standard of three bucks per issue. Aside from a one page introduction from Tischman (which was quite possibly included in the first issue), there are no extras here to add any value to the trade.

When it comes time to evaluate “Fraction” and give it a numerical score, it’s a tough call. On the one hand, it was a fun read and very well crafted. On the other, it doesn’t feel finished and it’s hard to recommend an unfinished book. It’s been a long time since the series first debuted, and the odds of a followup are pretty long. At the same time, it did just get a second printing, so it’s not impossible. In the end, this review is about this one volume and not the potential of future developments, so it doesn’t quite hit the marker.

Final verdict: 6.5 – Browse

//TAGS | Tradewaiter

Drew Bradley

Drew Bradley is a long time comic reader whose past contributions to Multiversity include annotations for "MIND MGMT", the Small Press Spotlight, Lettering Week, and Variant Coverage. He currently writes about the history of comic comic industry. Feel free to email him about these things, or any other comic related topic.


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