"Excellent Soap/Strangers on a Train" (FRINGE #2)

As per usual, I warn those who have not read the Fringe comics but would like to read them against reading any further, as this does contain spoilers. The first half of the second comic, titled "Excellent Soap," opens with Bell trying to convince Walter that his father knew Albert Einstein and that Einstein didn't wear socks, but Walter doesn't believe him. It's some nice comic relief right at the beginning of the comic, but I can only imagine how much worse it must have gotten between the two of them during their days as partners. We get a glimpse of that in the season two finale, "Over There, Part 2," which is a fantastic scene. It is obvious that some time has passed between the first comic and this one (I would imagine at least a year). The relationship between Walter and Bell indicates as much, since it is much different than that in the first comic, and Walter refers to Bell as "Belly." I remember how during the first season, when this comic was first released, some fans speculated that Bradbury was an Observer due to his attire, despite the fact that he has eyebrows and hair on his head. As much as it interested me (since it is possible that they could have used a wig and fake eyebrows), I was pretty sure that he was not an Observer. However, their choice of attire could very well be related to the Observers, something upon which will be touched in this entry.

I wonder if the professor to whom Walter speaks is significant at all or if we know who he is. I find it interesting how the comic leaves him unnamed, even though he does seem to be significant somehow. That scene would not have been included if he were not, I don't think. He seems to be someone that Walter trusted, someone that he went to for advice and for guidance. Walter refers to him merely as "professor," so we know that he was one of Walter's professors, but I don't have any kind of relationship with any of my college professors, yet there seems to be a father/son sort of dynamic between these two. Like I said, there is a great deal of trust. In this comic, he is a very old man, and this is the 70s, so it is incredibly unlikely that he is still alive (my point being that it is incredibly unlikely that we will see him in the TV series, but perhaps Walter will mention him), but I find it worth thinking about. In whom would Walter put that much trust? What was special about this professor? I also remember wondering if Rachel Matheson was actually Nina Sharp using an alias, and I don't think that I was the only one. She is young (right around the age that Nina would have been, in fact), and she has red hair. If it weren't for the fact that a later comic disproves such a theory, it would definitely be a theory that I would still have, because it would explain how Walter and Bell met Nina. Like I said, though, it unfortunately holds no validity any longer.

Bell makes a comment in this comic that I find to be monstrously ironic. He seems to be very uneasy about the situation involving the Fresh Start Soap company secretly conducting scientific experiments, and when he is asked about his uneasiness, he says, "I'm just not entirely comfortable with this kind of power in private hands." I don't think that I even need to say why that is ironic, and if I do, then you don't have any business being on this website. It's also odd, because once again, we are led to believe that Walter has not been entirely truthful in the picture that he has painted for us of he and Bell as younger men. In the comics, Walter doesn't seem to care much about the potential consequences of his pursuit of science, while Bell is uneasy and cautious. Bell doesn't trust the soap company and doesn't want to do anything for it until he is given reason to trust it, while Walter is more than willing to help it, despite the fact that he knows very little about it; the teleportation machine has him drawn in. I also wonder if what happened to the chimpanzee is what happened to Jones; if so, then a newly found strength would explain how he was able to break through the wall of his hospital room like the Incredible Hulk in "Ability" (1.14). He was most likely cuffed to his bed, which means that he broke free of that, too. The final observation that I would like to make, although probably not significant, is that the heads remind me of the frozen heads in "Momentum Deferred" (2.04). This story leaves us with the possibility that Rachel cannot be trusted, as she tells Walter and Bell that she wishes that the two of them had not found the heads in the jars, heads that are still alive.

The second story in the comic is titled "Strangers on a Train" (most likely a reference to the film Snakes on a Plane) and opens with a man named Johnson waking up on a train with an injury on his head, missing an important briefcase. He is told by his superior that he had better find the suitcase or else his next warning won't be so kind, so he is under a great deal of stress to find the lost briefcase. Finally, he is led to a man who gives him a device to locate the briefcase, but when he does, he realizes that it is he who has the briefcase, another version of himself, which suggests that he is in some kind of time loop, since he hits his alter-self on the head and then runs with the briefcase, leaving him in the same state in which he was at the beginning the story. Usually, the "stand-alone" stories don't make it very clear as to what the time period is, but the fact that the briefcase says Fresh Start Soap on it is, I think, meant to indicate that it takes place around the same time period (if not during) the first part of the comic. This is to what I was referring when I said that the company could have a connection to the Observers. In "Fracture" (2.03), Gordon tasks his soldiers to lift a briefcase, which was all a plot to destroy the Observers, and we see that the Observers' Couriers wear long trenchcoats. I definitely prefer the Walter/Bell stories to the "stand-alone" stories, but at the same time, I do like how the "stand-alone" stories tie in to the Fringe mythology in one way or another, and this one definitely does, earning it a rating of nine walked dogs. Even in the comics, there is much to think about, much to theorize about, and much to be excited about, which isn't too far off from the TV series.

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