I’ve found myself enjoying Vertigo’s run of themed anthology one-shots lately — it’s hard to go wrong with a bunch of strong creators each riffing off a broad genre — so “Mystery in Space” looked to be another winner. By the time I was done with the comic, though, I found myself a little disappointed. The high points still exist in “Mystery in Space,” but there are a few too many low points in the mix as well.
Some of the stories work well and the first section of the comic is full of them. Duane Swierczyski and Ramon Bachs open the comic with “Verbinsky Doesn’t Appreciate It,” about an average Joe in bar who was kidnapped by aliens from an alternate reality and given an amazing cyborg arm. It’s a strange mixture of humor and pathos and most importantly I appreciated that while there’s an 11th hour twist, the comic doesn’t hinge on it. You can re-read it and appreciate the entire creation, not just those last two pages. Andy Diggle and Davide Gianfelice immediately follow with “Transmission,” which reminds me a great deal of classic science-fiction stories that I’d read growing up. It uses a familiar theme of humanity versus machines, and takes it to an enjoyable conclusion. Ming Doyle’s “Asleep to See You” is easily the most emotional story in the book; it does a wonderful job of portraying a relationship in just eight pages and her art is gorgeous to boot. If this had been a regular sized book with just these three stories at the first issue, I’d be dying for more the next month.
Unfortunately that’s the point where “Mystery in Space” gets a little uneven. Ann Nocenti and Fred Harper’s “Here Nor There” feels disjointed and slightly uninteresting with some forgettable art. “The Elgort” by Nnedi Okorafor and Michael Wm. Kaluta looks absolutely gorgeous (one expects nothing less from Kaluta) but the story felt a little overwritten and never grabbed me. “Breeching” by Steve Orlando and Francesco Trifogli was one of those stories where at the end I found myself unsure of what its purpose even was.
Robert Rodi and Sebastian Fiumara are up next with “Contact High,” which is interesting but also not 100% there. I appreciated Rodi’s take on romantic triangles mixed with the isolation of space and Fiumara’s art is gorgeous. This was one of the few stories that felt like it could have used one or two more pages to smooth out some of the transitions, though; it was good, but a bit abrupt. “The Dream Pool” by Kevin McCarthy and Kyle Baker is a rough patch, though; as nice as it is to see Baker creating something that doesn’t look like it’s right off of a computer, the art style was grating to my eyes and like “The Elgort” I found myself unable to muster up interest. Michael Allred wraps up the comic with “Alpha Meets Omega,” which looks fantastic from start to finish, but doesn’t have much of a plot to speak of. It’s an impressive set of pages, though, and I found myself able to forgive a bit of the non-story because I enjoy his art so much.
“Mystery in Space” has a great opening section, but after that the book quickly settles into a bad slump. It’s too bad, because a space/science-fiction themed anthology seems like a natural for a lot of strong pieces. In the end, this should have been better than what we actually got, but I’m glad for the stories that did work.