Saturday, October 8

Mystery Men #4 of 5 (Marvel, Oct 2011)

In this penultimate issue, we learn among other things, that (in the Marvel Universe at least) the fate of the kidnapped Lindbergh baby – one of the media firestorms of the early 1930s – was not what we all believed; that the Mystery Men heroes are being compelled by circumstance to act in harsher ways that even they are not comfortable with (with great commentary on one way they deal with it, see below); that Nox (Latin for “Night”) has bequeathed to The General an ability that is, like the power of Achilles, out of legend (although I can't for the life of me find a reference to “Lysseus” as a werewolf-type creature, the name sounds so familiar …); more about the origins of our Mystery Men – including the treachery born of bigotry that compelled Ezekiel Wright to take up the identity of The Revenant; and that The Aviator Sarah Starr has unwittingly become the intersection of an interracial love-triangle between The Operative Dennis Piper and Ezekiel. Along the way, all five of our heroes come together against the Bad Guys – and barely survive the encounter.

I believe it is Ezekiel's narrative monologue that gives a short but wonderful statement rationalizing our comic-book/hero-pulp trope of masked vigilantism: “Before all this began, we were not these people. We could never have done these things. … Maybe that's why we wear masks. … We cover our faces, hide our old selves, and become something else. … We do what needs to be done. … We abandon the luxuries of mercy and pity. … I do what I must, because if I don't, no one else will.” Certainly it's not the first time the role of masks in creating an alternate identity freeing one to do things that one would or could never done otherwise – it's even a phenomenon studied in anthropological and sociological circles – but here it's just so well put I had to quote it.

This book continues to be filled with pulpy comic-book goodness. Both writing and art are top-notch, conveying the 1930s noir mood to perfection. There are, unfortunately, a couple of blemishes right on the opening page, Marvel's typical (I think – I read hardly any Marvel comics in floppy form these days) “Last time...” text recap and intro to the characters. In the first paragraph, the Board is defined as “an alliance of the rich and powerful lead by a man known only as The General” – my emphasis, should be “led.” And in the last paragraph, “the duo has now set into motion plans to sacrafice childred to achieve ultimate power” – again, my emphasis: “Sacrafice” may, based on the number of hits that spelling gets on Google, be a common misspelling of “sacrifice,” but it is still a misspelling. Editor Bill Rosemann, do your job!

(In all fairness, I must admit that I thought the use of the word “sufferance” in the first paragraph – “Benefitting from the city's sufferance ...” – was a similar mistake, but it turns out to be a perfectly valid word and usage even though I still think “suffering” would be better.  Although they can be synonyms, the primary meaning of "sufferance" is "patient endurance" or "tolerance.")

Looking forward to the last issue – and hoping that there will be more adventures of The Mystery Men to come!


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