“Introducing Marvel’s all-new, never-before-seen heroes of the 1930s!” So begins the blurb of this comic, and is the reason that I bought it. I didn’t quite understand how there were these long-lost characters from the 30s that had gone unseen for so many decades, especially since Marvel Comics was not even founded until 1939, which proved to me, yet again, that I am not nearly as smart as I sometimes think I am.
Because of course these are not characters from the 1930s. They are characters set in the 1930s.
In my defense, that is a very deceptive sentence.
The adventure depicted in this pulp-esque noir-ish mini-series follows a fairly typical dark thriller plot that could easily have been written in the time in which it is set — there’s an innocent man framed for murder, corrupt politicians, organized crime run riot and people wearing hats. The Lindbergh baby makes an appearance, and a few other hallmarks of the era, and it’s all pretty oppressive and bleak, because damn, the 30s were, apparently. It wasn’t called the Depression for nothing.
Our superheroes — five in all — are conflicted and suffering from every societal issue of the time, from racism to sexism to daddy issues (okay, so those are pretty timeless issues, unfortunately), and also must battle against monsters, because yeah. When you think noir, obviously the supernatural is the next thought that comes to mind.
I really enjoyed the Aviatrix (whose sister was murdered, and who is the possessor of a pair of Falcon-style mechanical wings for no apparent reason) as a nascent superheroine, and the Surgeon’s dark and creepy one-liners genuinely made me wonder if he was being set up as our villain instead. (“When I’m finished cutting away, they won’t recognize you.”) I always hate an innocent-patsy-on-the-run tale, so that wasn’t my favourite, but that aspect of the story did add events a certain tension throughout.
And the art — which is fantastic — made up for a lot.
In short, this is a pretty fun pulpy ride, enough so that I kind of wish the aforementioned superheroes, along with the equally troubled Operator, Revenant and Achilles, really had been created in the 1930s, after all. I would have loved to see the reboot.
TBR DAY 205: Mystery Men by David Liss; illustrated by Patrick Zircher
GENRE: Marvel, Comics, Superheroes
TIME ON THE TBR: ~6 years.
PURCHASED FROM: Minotaur Melbourne.
KEEP: Why not?