Published by Marvel Comics, Mystery Men #1 by writer David Liss and artist Patrick Zircher is set during 1932 and features a group of all-new characters inspired by the classic pulp-adventure genre. On the surface, some of these heroes certainly appear to be little more than variations on iconic versions that we’ve all seen many times before, but read through this first issue (of a five issue run) and you will discover that the proof is in the pudding and in the manner of execution. Liss and Zircher have a winner on their hands. This issue is a perfect counterpoint for the same-old, same-old revamps, reboots and relaunches going on both elsewhere and even in-house at the House of Ideas.
It is worth mentioning that this project may have taken its cue from a much more recent series, than in anything from several decades past, and that would be Marvels prematurely aborted, and fan-lamented, 2007 revival of golden age characters called “The Twelve”. Fortunately for all of us, Joe Straczynski isn’t involved with this title, so maybe we’ll get to actually see the conclusion of this one.
Of the new characters revealed through the industry press earlier, only two are prominent this month, although a third is stealthily included. The Operative is somewhat akin to a gumshoe Robin Hood, and with a similar shtick, and given what happens to him in this issue, he’s probably going to need the skills of the merry band about to form around him. As entertainingly good as the film noir aspects of the Operatives back story is set up in this book, it is The Revenant who gets the scene-stealing introduction near the end of the issue, so hang onto your hat for a wild ride that is definitely worth the $2.99 price tag.
I’m not familiar with anything else David Liss may have written, but he tells a damn fine story using familiar superhero tropes and his homage to the early days of super heroic fiction rings true. Patrick Zircher was familiar to me, and while I admit to not having anything of his in my collection before now, he just became a regular artist whose stuff I will always take a look at. Man, does this guy knock it out of the park on this book. Beautiful, beautiful stuff that fully channels the very best of what came before – all the way back to the golden age – and he even understands how to make the best use of the cinematic potential of a full page bleed. “Who Are the Mystery Men”, indeed? Liss and Zircher are ably accompanied by colorist Andy Troy, letterer Dave Sharpe and Editor Bill Rosemann (and his assistants). EIC Axel Alonso, Chief Creative Officer Joe Quesada, Publisher Dan Buckley and Alan Fine as “Executive Producer” claim a credit too, but why the guys who sign the paychecks claim credit on every damn thing is beyond me. Consider this a Bronx cheer to the latter four names, but "their" comic is highly recommended despite their presence!