“Mystery Men” is a comic not worried about continuity; It’s worried about being its own tale. Thus, any Easter Eggs can relate to these characters and not the wider Marvel U. It’s a strong, though heavy, pulp start. This issue moves the story forward. It’s refreshing to read a single issue where a lot happens across multiple scenes. This issue works as Sarah Starr’s story, but we don’t get enough of her. The Operative is still on the case and an unwanted alliance is going to be formed, as well as a familial revelation that makes things even more uncomfortable.
Sarah Starr is the ultimate pulp femme, reminding our intrepid hero of his now dead lover. (Sarah is her sister, after all.) But she is also a character who can hold her own. Dennis Piper, a.k.a. The Operative, does a very good job of dismissing her for her gender, but she steps up to hold her own. In fact, she’s the best thing about this book because she’s a revelation. She’s the breath of fresh air that keeps this book elevated beyond just being a pastiche of old noir and old pulps. Sarah Starr is ridiculous fun both in the way she carries herself and her great designs.
The interplay between the Operative and the Revenant takes up plenty of this issue and it’s a shame that it is good, but not great. There’s friction there but it’s hard to discern the source. For every time the Operative is petulant towards the Revenant, it only serves to make our lead hero seem like less of a likeable guy. It’s definitely a product of the time period being captured, but that still doesn’t excuse the fact it makes the Operative appear bull headed and arrogant.
When Liss and Zircher combine to nail a two page scene, nothing stands in their way. The panels come thick and fast, the dialogue drops everything you need without feeling rigid, and the overall effect is something like a montage but also a tight old movie reel. This issue takes time to read, and the silent beats are completely worth slowing down for. This is what a comic should feel like, something worth your money and time. It’s fun, but plenty still happens. It’s the ultimate double combo.
Patrick Zircher knows how to pace a page. He controls the rate of the panels, so the reader is right in the palm of his hand. The little looks from characters and the freeze frame punches make for very pretty panels. Zircher’s action is slick, and he knows just the right instant to capture to make you feel what is going on. The final splash is so damn pretty it makes you forget all about what a tactical error it is for that very moment.
“Mystery Men” is the sort of comic Marvel needs to publish more of. Not everything within the Marvel U needs to center on a cape and spandex. Different genres are enjoyed by fans. If the DCU can be so widely diversified, then there’s no reason why Marvel can’t do more than just expand their Avengers team exponentially. This is a great book that delivers fun and intrigue, and that’s always better than an average book that delivers some fumbled heroics. Pick up “Mystery Men” and enjoy the old timey goodness, it goes down smooth and comes up trumps.