First, the elephant in the room: When I hear there’s a comic book called “Mystery Men,” I instantly think of the one written by Bob Burden, which spawned an underrated and entertaining film. So going into this “Mystery Men” I had a slight chip on my shoulder. I like Burden’s comics, and seeing the title (and even Burden’s “Who are the Mystery Men?” tagline) get poached annoyed me.
So with all of that in mind?
This “Mystery Men” from Marvel is a great comic.
I’ve been seeing Patrick Zircher draw nice looking comics for decades now, but this one feels like a huge leap forward from good to great. I made it all the way to the third page before I had to stop and double-check the credits to make sure this was Zircher. The panel with the starlets in their dressing room, for instance, reminds me of Michael Zulli, with the beautifully rendered flowers, the purple curtains with the stars in the background, the overall look and feel of the room. This isn’t a comic that has to verbally tell you that it’s set in the 1930s. You look at it and it clearly is the 1930s.
With each page, Zircher’s art just jumps out at you more and more as the perfect choice for this story. Characters who you can only see their eyes are tough to draw by many, but Zircher nails it, showing shock and sadness and surprise in a tight zoom-in on the Operative. With the fine lines around his eyes, it’s hard to not think of Guy Davis’s run on “Sandman Mystery Theatre” (the setting certainly doesn’t hurt), and by the time you’re done with the comic, you’ll be thinking, “So that’s what a cross between Zulli and Davis would look like.”
Davis Liss’ script is solid, moving us through the introduction of the setting and the characters with ease, and providing just the right amount of tension and drama early on in the script to hook the reader. Liss and Zircher provide some genuine moments of horror here, which was a good surprise; the appearance of Nox and what happens to those she possesses is an eerie, haunting scene.
Every single scene in “Mystery Men” has a great moment that punches through and demands your attention. This is a very strong first issue, and it made me go from “dubious” to “eager” in just 32 pages. I might not be crazy about the title of the comic, but in every other way this is a wild success. Make mine “Mystery Men.”