Horton hears a Mysterius– a review of Mysterius the Unfathomable (tpb)

They don't make comics like Mysterius the Unfathomable anymore. That may not seem like much of a statement when you consider that it was only last year that Jeff Patker and Tom Fowler published Mysterius the Unfathomable as a five issue miniseries through DC's Wildstorm imprint but even then, Mysterius must have still felt like a old-time comic, recalling the days that Joe Orlando and Jack Davis art sat side-by-side on the newsstand rack. That's the reason the cover to the new collection of Mysterius works perfect; it looks worn, with frayed edges and a water stain, where someone absent-mindedly put down a glass on it. The book may already be worn but it's also well read and belongs on every book shelf, waiting to be read over and over again.

An unaging magician who “performs” for the rich and bored, Parker and Fowler's Mysterius is a lout, not quite washed up but far from the hero he used to be. He was once a magical detective. Along with Delfi, the name/title of his assistant/companion at any given time, he hunts magical charlatans and ne'er-do-wells like Vinton Dulac, a 60's Satanic cult leader whose followers seemed much more interested in groovy orgies than in any dreams of ascension that Dulac may have. But that was back in the 60s; today Mysterius conducts seances for those willing to pay his high fees. When a seance accidentally sends one of those idle rich to a familiar looking hell and intersects another case involving a witch's coven that will go to any lengths to get a mystical idol, Mysterius once again has to save the world from an old foe.

Mysterius the Unfathomable is filled with many characters and a number of different plots that, at first, may seem unnecessary and confusing but writer Jeff Parker has a clear purpose for each and every one of them. There's barely a line of dialogue or a walk-on character in this book that doesn't serve some higher purpose. Parker makes sure that nothing and no one are wasted in his story. It's that level of detail which Parker fuses into his story that makes Mysterius fun. It's like watching a puzzle being put together without ever really realizing that you're watching someone working on a puzzle. It's not until the end, when you see the final pieces being put in that you realize there was even a puzzle to be put together. By the time you get to the third and fourth chapter, you realize that almost everything in the book has had its part to play as Parker continues to build and reinforce his story. Parker's own slight-of-hand storytelling is just as effective, illusive and captivating as any magic Mysterius uses in the story.

Tom Fowler's artwork creates an amazing balance of horror, suspense and comedy. Fowler has just the right touch blending the mood and tone without ever losing it. Too many artists would take Parker's story and either make it too funny looking or too dark, each at the expense of the other, but Fowler perfectly keeps a light hand to his work while still making the world of Mysterius look appropriately dark and foreboding. Considering that Hell in this book is supposed to look like something out of a Dr. Seuss book, Fowler and colorist Dave McCaig capture the sinister amusement that existed just under the surface of most of Seuss's writing to their version of Hell and bring that same feel to the rest of the book. While darkness and danger exist in each and every panel, Fowler and McCaig never lose those little touches that make you want to giggle just a bit.

Mysterius the Unfathomable is a throwback comic, going back to the days when writers and artists tried to create a dark and suspenseful mood without going overboard and making it grim and gritty. If this book was published back in the 60s or 70s, instead of being serialized as a miniseries, the adventures of Mysterius would have been published monthly in a Warren magazine or in one of DC's horror anthologies like House of Mystery. Parker and Fowler's stories would be perfectly at home sitting beside Joe Orlando, Archie Goodwin, Alex Toth, Sergio Aragones and Angelo Torres on the magazine stands.

Mysterius the Unfathomable

Written by: Jeff Parker
Drawn by: Tom Fowler
Colored by: Dave McCaig
Lettered by: Saida Temofonte

Mysterius the Unfathomable is available on Amazon.com.

Posted via email from Wednesdays Haul’s posterous

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