ADVANCE REVIEW! Mysteryman: All About Eve will go on sale Wednesday, August 1, 2012.
Matthew Todd knows his shit. Hell, so does Jonathan Case.
I'll start off with what many might perceive as a negative: there's nothing new here. By that, I mean that Todd and Case aren't bombarding us with batshit insane ideas, a la Morrison or Hickman. You're not going to find multiple subplots and storylines that require charts to keep track of.
What you will find is a pulp hero story in its purest form.
Jack Mason is a former Hollywood stuntman in the 1950s. He finds himself in the path of the Red Scare, losing pretty much all the things he cared about that. So Jack raids the costume department and takes to the city as Mysteryman.
All the elements of classic pulp heroes are there. I hadn't realized until I read this issue just how fertile the Golden Age of Hollywood was for these types of stories, but it makes perfect sense. With all the glitz and glamour and the ever-present mob connections, Los Angeles is the perfect setting.
Todd makes the most of it. Movie stars and moguls of the '50s have long had a connection to organized crime, and Mysteryman makes that link very clear. It's actually the B-plot to this issue, but it sets the tone for the story and serves to make this world more textured.
There's also something to be said for the visuals that go along with 1950s Hollywood. In this case, it's a Hollywood premiere, with all the wealthy actors walking the bright and shining path down the red carpet while Mysteryman hangs out in the shadows on the buildings above them. And perhaps that's another reason why pulp heroes work so well in L.A. — the wonderful juxtaposition.
Jonathan Case does a great job of conveying all that. I'm embarrassed to admit that I've yet to read Green River Killer, which earned rave reviews from pretty much everyone I know. But I did see Case's work on The Creep in Dark Horse Presents, and saw just how well he tells this type of story. His characters all seem hard-boiled in one way or the other, but aren't bulky. He's able to maintain a balance between classic characters and comic book action.
Case's work is particularly important because Todd's script moves at a brisk pace. This is smart storytelling that realizes that there's familiarity in this set-up, so the audience doesn't need to hear every little detail. All we need are touch points that get the set up across, then we need to be dropped into the middle of the story at hand. This is a brief taste of the world of Mysteryman, so Todd and Case convey as much as they can in just a few panels, and leave the rest up to us.
If Mysteryman has a flaw, it's that it's too short. It's a wonderful appetizer, but anyone with even a tiny amount of love for pulp heroes is going to want more — which, of course, is the whole purpose of this comic. It wants you to want more.
In fact, I was originally going to give this book a 3.5, mostly due to its length. But the "Coming sSoon" page was enough to bump it up. It's clear from those four panels that Todd has plenty of Mysteryman stories to tell, and they all smack of the same pulpy goodness.
Give this one a shot. Like I said, if this kind of thing is even remotely your bag, you'll dig it. The only way we're going to get more is if this one shot does well.
Kyle Garret is the author of I Pray Hardest When I'm Being Shot At, available now from Hellgate Press. His short fiction has been published in the Ginosko Literary Journal, Literary Town Hall, Children, Churches, & Daddies and Falling Into Place. He writes comic book reviews here at Comics Bulletin and blogs for PopMatters. He can be found at KyleGarret.com and on Twitter at @kylegarret.