Every year there is an event within the comic world publishers. It doesn’t matter who the publisher is, there is always a hook. Sometimes it will be localised to a group of titles and other times it will span the entire universe, but, regardless of who or what there will always be something taking the lion’s share of the spotlight.
Now from a publishing - and to an extent a readers view too - it means that there is a focal point for things to revolve around and makes structuring a vast number of things a lot easier. From a revenue point of view as well a publishing house can invest and plan a return.
However, this is not an all encompassing concept. While the spotlight was shining brightly for Fear Itself this year (and in the run up too) it gave the shadows away to a variety of titles and miniseries. One such series which I was seriously tempted to review as my end of year piece was Carnage, a revival of Cletus Kassidy after being ripped in half by Sentry. It was beautifully drawn and a favourite character of mine but the year has had more to give.
The title that really stole the show for me was David Liss’ Mystery Men, a limited five part series set before what readers know as “the norm”.
Established in the 1930’s Mystery Men approaches from more of a classic direction. These are men and women who are pushing themselves to be better and stand up for the good in the world without the benefit of a cosmic ray, nuclear explosion or any type of beneficial accident to gift them with a power set befitting a demi-god. Even their names are down to earth and feel fitting, albeit a little sinister with The Operative, The Revenant, The Surgeon, The Aviatrix and Achilles.
Although the premise may feel a little dated, one thing Liss has done is to take into account the world as part of the story and I feel this gives it extra weight. The role that society plays in the story is shown very well, from the almost religious undertones to the racial and sexual stereotyping that were both rife in that era. This is a time when power and strength are portrayed by the male police forces and armies of the world - not playboys, women and African stage hands.
Putting all the above together gives a refreshing story and series to collect and read which doesn’t follow the obvious generic formula. Yes, there is the very general “good wins over evil” but who couldn’t use that?
The story follows a supernatural plan to raise an earth changing power and our valiant heroes and heroine stand it its way. Simple enough story, however, as I said this is about the world around them and not only do they have to consider the fate of the world but their own predjudices and opinions are challenged in the process.
The whole feel of the comic is also fantastically depicted by Patrick Zircher. Now if honest I am not one for the “older” comic look and feel having only really become a fan in the last decade, but here this only adds to the sensation of the comic. There is a certain welcoming feel to it one seen in films such as the Rocketeer and Sky Captain helping to build the ambience.
When read as a whole it works on more than one level. It’s a well crafted piece that can simply be read or alternatively it can be seen as social commentary in a time that needed to change. Whichever way you would prefer to peruse the page of a comic, book or article it has something for you. It is a limited series though which may make getting copies a little tricky however as someone who was looking for something different and out of the regular trenches then I would say that to make an effort to get these issues is only one that will rewarding if successful and a goal to achieve if they have eluded you this time.
A beautiful multi faceted attraction that all should have or at least aim to attain!
Matt Puddy is hoping to feel well enough to celebrate New Year's Eve...