Mysterius the Unfathomable #1

Written by Jeff Parker
Art by Tom Fowler
32 pages, color
Published by Wildstorm/DC Comics

I feel a little bad for the Wildstorm imprint, these days. It seems to have majorly fallen off the radar of readers, and that means no matter how good the project is, it’s likely to be overlooked. In the case of something like Mysterius the Unfathomable, that’s a real shame. Jeff Parker and Tom Fowler’s new mini-series has such a fun start that it deserves to be seen by more than a handful of people.

Back in the 1920s, seances were a dime-a-dozen. In the modern day, though, most people look down on the mere idea, calling them nothing more than a con to swindle money out of innocent people. That’s certainly what Ella thought when she went to see a seance held in Manhattan by someone who calls himself Mysterius the Great. When the seance actually did perform as promised, though, Ella couldn’t help but try and look into Mysterius’s life a little further. She certainly didn’t expect herself to end up as the latest assistant to the aging magician, though.

If I had to compare Mysterius the Unfathomable #1 to another comic, the pitch would be, "John Constantine without all of the demons." Parker’s Mysterius is untrustworthy, erratic, and absolutely sure of what he’s doing. While he’s the title character of the book, though, he’s not our protagonist. That’s Ella, and it’s fun to see both what Ella does and does not immediately pick up on as she starts her interactions with Mysterius. I like Ella a lot; she’s strong-willed and smart, and while she’s certainly taken in by some of Mysterius’s glib claims and fast talk, you get the impression that it won’t be that way forever. In short, she’s the perfect foil for Mysterius, as well as a good viewpoint character to let us as readers enter Mysterius’s world. And speaking of Mysterius, I appreciate that he’s not a one-note character. It would be easy to make him simply a callous user of others, or an arrogant know-it-all, or even a perfect magician. He’s none and all of these, with a lot of other pieces added in for good measure. One of the early scenes we get of him involves the seance and how it goes wrong; it would certainly be easy for Mysterius to ignore the bad situation that one of them was in when the dust settled. Instead, Parker walks a fine line with Mysterius; he’s not going to abandon the poor soul to his fate, but at the same time he puts the care and responsibility on others. In many ways, that sums up Mysterius quite well for me.

It’s always nice to see more art from Fowler, whose art on books like Caper has always pleased me. His art has always had for me just the right level of exaggeration; enough to make it clearly Fowler’s style, but not so much that people look misshapen or unrealistic. He and colorist Dave McCaig work well together; the scene outside the rowhouse in New York is flush full of color and background material, making you feel almost like you’ve walked into the streets of Manhattan yourself. At the same time, though, the seance scenes are genuinely creepy, with the stark white sea of bones moaning for help, with Mysterius and the red chain of bodies holding him to the real world. I know that generally speaking the oversized hardcover collections at DC and its various imprints are saved for Absolute editions, but if they wanted to just release a slightly larger hardcover Mysterius the Unfathomable (say, the size of the recent Jeff Smith Shazam! hardcover) I can’t help but think that the art would definitely support it.

Mysterius the Unfathomable #1 is a really fun start to the mini-series. This is a book that you can’t help but want to succeed, because it’s just so much fun. Hopefully it’ll find the audience it deserves, because the idea of this sinking without a trace in our current tough publishing market… well, that would truly be unfathomable. Check it out.

2 comments to Mysterius the Unfathomable #1