Mystery Men Review

An untold tale of the pulp heroes of the Marvel Universe is a very easy sell, especially with the art of Patrick Zircher. I picked up this collection without hesitation and am glad I did, I really enjoyed it.

For the most part this is set in New York City, during 1932 during the Great Depression. These are the heroes who made New York their stomping ground before even guys like the Golden Age Angel and Human torch showed arrived on the scene. Even though this series covers the past, it is treading on brand new ground. The Marvel Universe has its share of Western and late 1930’s stories, but the era of the early 1930’s was untouched until now.

To their credit, writer David Liss and artist Patrick Zircher really do a great job transporting us to the 1930’s. The people, scenery and overall culture seem to be well researched. However, since this is fiction and set in the Marvel Universe they don’t hesitate to deviate from history to tell a more exciting or intriguing story. Examples of this would include the subplot with the Lindbergh baby and the zeppelin docking on the roof of the Empire State Building. A few established Marvel villains appear, but the heroes are all brand new to this series as is the main villain.

The creative team does a great job with these familiar pulp archetypes, by putting their own spin on them.  The Revenant (A black version of the Shadow minus the pistols), the Aviatrix (a female version of the Rocketeer), the Surgeon (a scarred avenger archetype), the Operative (the paragon trained from birth, but not originally for good intentions) and Achilles (a lightly powered version of Captain Marvel).  This is boiling these characters down to their most basic, they are a lot more than that and what is shown in their respective backgrounds will prove it.

The basic plot is…well rather basic, but it is a pulp story after all. A man called the General is the main villain for the story. He and his colleagues of The Board, rule New York City (and perhaps the country) from the Empire State Building. They keep America in financial crisis and profit off the backs of the common man. They also plan to strike up a deal with a foreign military partner (Germany or Japan are mentioned to be suitable) and start a war they can both profit from.  The General is connected to all of our heroes in some way or another through his vast influence. He is the common enemy who brings them all together. However, he is not working alone. His mistress is Nox, a Fear Lord from classic Doctor Strange comics and the Olympian Goddess of Night. She wishes to return to her most powerful form and that requires the General to sacrifice a group of children during the Summer Solstice. Now if that doesn’t sound like a hero pulp story, I don’t know what does.

I recommend this title to fans of pulp and golden age stories or modern stories told in those eras. If you are also a fan of Patrick Zircher then this is a no brainer to pick up as well. He and colorist Andy Troy will transport you to Marvel’s 1932 New York City and I think you will enjoy the ride. Another person that needs to be mentioned is the letterer, Dave Sharpe. The variety of fonts he employs in this mini are so perfectly in sync with the art and writing that it brings both to a while other level. If it is a pulp or golden age era book, I hope he is lettering it because he really does a great job.

David Liss, known for writing prose rather than comics indicated he was unaware of this era being untapped in the Marvel Universe. I haven’t read any of his prose work, but did enjoy his Black Panther: Man Without Fear series and am glad he was naïve enough to go at this full force without being weighed down by what he was doing. This is a real accomplishment; we have the rest of 1932 to 1938 in the Marvel Universe all set up, ready and waiting for more stories. I hope these guys come back and fill in those gaps.

Credits –

Writer: David Liss

Artist: Patrick Zircher

Color Art: Andy Troy

Letterer: Dave Sharpe

Assistant Editors: Rachel Pinnelas & John Denning

Editor: Bill Roseman

About Jason Aiken

A comic book fan since the early 1990's, I have recently discovered a love for the pulps. I write reviews for First Comics News and guest host on the Ric's Comics podcast. I'm @jasonaiken on Twitter and have a pulp message board at http://www.pulpforums.com