Marvel Mystery Men

Real men don’t wear tights.

It should be obvious to anyone who’s read my books that I love superheroes. Despite this I haven’t picked up very many comic titles recently, for a reason I imagine I share with a lot of older readers: the sheer weight of superhero mythology. What do I mean by this? Simply, superheroes like Superman, Batman, Spider Man, Wonder Woman, and so on, come with stories that have been told and retold so many times that it is virtually impossible to find a story about any of them that is fresh.

Does anyone doubt that, although in DC’s current reboot Superman and Wonder Woman are now an item, Clark Kent and Louis Lane are destined to be together? Nothing wrong with that–it’s Superman’s Story–I’m just saying. One of the things I loved about The Dark Knight Rises is that it actually finished Bruce Wayne’s story; he got his Happy Ending, which is something you won’t see in DC’s Batman comics except for “alternate-Earth” Waynes.

This has somewhat dimmed my enjoyment of mainstream comics over the years, which is why I search for new titles with new stories, stories that are just beginning to build their own mythologies. For one of those, see my review of Wildguard, the excellent but short lived series about a reality show superhero team by Todd Nauck (he stopped writing and drawing it because Marvel and DC paid him too much not to draw for them). And now here’s another new series. Mystery Men is a new story from Marvel Comics, about a group of superheroes active in New York during the Great Depression. As Marvel fans know, although the Marvel Universe (Marvelverse?) has a deep history, its classic superheroes–Captain America, The Human Torch, Namor, etc.–appeared during World War Two; by taking us back before Steve Rogers ever drank the super-soldier serum, Mystery Men can give us a fresh story unfettered by the deep mythology of all that comes after.

So who are the Mystery Men? They are The Operative (a Robin Hood style cat-burgler), The Revenant (a caped and hooded vigilante), The Surgeon (an, umm…), The Aviatrix (a female Rocketeer who made her own jet-wings), and Achilles (the team’s only real superhuman, empowered by an artifact from legendary Troy). Because they are not part of the official future-history of the Marvelverse, the writers keep them in the shadows; their fight mostly goes on outside the public view, or they are branded as villains by the Daily Bugle… Some things never change. Each mystery man has his/her own agenda, but they are drawn together by necessity to fight The General and The Board, and are made outlaws by a corrupt system. Seriously corrupt; in Mystery Men‘s unfolding mythology, the economic collapse of the Great Depression was caused by The Board, a cabal of business leaders who profit by it and intend to start another war to profit from that too. They own the police, the courts, and the press, and intend to own the world.

So how to describe the series? In feel it is a superhero-noir story with dark supernatural elements. The art is well-fitted to the story, and the story itself is original and intelligent enough to engage. It even takes advantage of some little known pieces of history–like the fact that, prior to our entry into WWII, a significant number of Americans supported the fascist movement that was gaining strength in Germany, Spain, and Italy (and no, it wasn’t the Republicans). Mystery Men is a limited series (I picked it up as a complete graphic novel), but it’s a fun read and I’m sure that it will sell enough to continue. If it does, the mystery men will almost certainly find themselves confronting America’s own homegrown Brown Shirts.

One note: the writers are obviously trying hard to link The Board to modern critiques of Big Business ala Occupy Wall Street. In one scene this gets humorously overwrought: the master villain boasts of controlling elections, owning police departments and governments, suppressing unions, running drugs, and increasing the amount of nicotine in cigarettes. Bwa ha ha ha!

7 thoughts on “Marvel Mystery Men

  1. Hi!
    Just finished reading your first book, got the second one right now in my Kindle waiting for me.

    I’ve had the same problem with comics for a few years. After a while their cyclical nature gets to you. Seeing a hero die knowing they will be back can get old quickly. Getting old being, by the way, one of the things they don’t do.

    The problem is, I still love superheroes.

    That’s why I’ve been looking for different kind of cape stories, and why I found your book.

    Cutting a long story short, this unnecessarily long introduction was meant to ask if you have ever read Invincible, from Robert Kirkman, and recommend it if you haven’t.

    Best regards,


    1. Thank you for the recommendation–I will have to check Invincible out. If you are enjoying the WtC books, I look forward to reading your Amazon reviews.

      1. Which reviewer are you–I’d like to read it. Bite Me (Artemis’ Tale) should be out at the end of this month. After that I’m starting work on WtC3.

      2. That is very nice for an author to hear; the truly fun books are the ones you want to share with all your friends (my favorite books are rather battered now due to multiple loans to friends who “had to read it.”).

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