Review: Mystery Men #5

David Liss' exploration of Marvel's murky pre-WWII era concludes, and we can only hope that it's not gone for good.

Andy Hunsakerby Andy Hunsaker

Mystery Men #5

The Heroic Age of the Marvel Universe has traditionally began with the rise of Captain America during World War II, but David Liss has changed all that by introducing a new crew of vigilantes who banded together in the early 1930s to take down a rather sinister conspiracy, and we can only hope they're here to stay.

The five issue miniseries Mystery Men has now concluded, and it has firmly ensconced itself in the history of the Marvel Universe by not only including a nefarious demon from Dr. Strange's past, but now putting her in league with one of Cap's oldest enemies, Baron Heinrich Zemo, who apparently sported vaguely purple suits and a monocle before getting a mask glued to his face in the war years.  This is the kind of thing that makes for happy nerds.

The team is based around Dennis Piper, aka The Operative, whose career as a Robin Hood-esque cat burglar was ratcheted up several notches when his dripping-with-evil father known as The General began working for the demoness Nox to kidnap children for sacrificial purposes – including the famous Charles Lindbergh baby – and in the process, murdered Alice Starr, the woman Dennis loved.  Alice's sister Sarah Starr, sporting a jetpack of her own creation and known as The Aviatrix, has joined forces with Piper and Ezekiel Wright, aka The Revenant, who worked with Alice on stage and utilizes his knowledge of the illusory arts to disturb and terrify criminals.  Then there's the rogue duo of Professor Lewis Green, an archaeologist who has discovered an amulet that grants him the great power of Achilles, but will rob him of years of his life if he does not take the lives of others, and the vengeful, broken doctor known only as The Surgeon.  Both of these men have been grievously wronged by The General, and they are out to punish him for it… but the duo's brutal methods make the original trio extremely uncomfortable.

The General also runs a disgusting organization of wealthy powerbrokers known only as The Board, who try to shape world events towards conflict and misery to line their pockets with more profit, and in Mystery Men #5, Zemo enters the fold as well… and where once they were simply concerned with protecting their interests, they're now enlisted to help with the demonic sacrifice of children to enhance all their power.  Plus, they have an army of werewolves.  This is a tall order for a handful of normal people to try and fight… especially when, at the outset of this issue, they are nowhere close to being a team, after some interpersonal drama has torn them apart.

But they all know what's stake, and they finally get together to work as a unit and kick all sorts of ass. 

The final confrontation between Piper and his father is surprisingly brief – one page long – but given that most of the series has centered around their enmity, there has been plenty of build to it.  Patrick Zircher's dark yet clear and clean noir-styled art really does it all justice as well – and he does the same for the confrontation between the only truly powered man on this team, Achilles, as he finds a way to take on the mystical evil of Nox, paying the ultimate price in the process… and setting up a very interesting turn of events for any potential future iteration of this team. 

This is a good series.  Enjoyable, entertaining, flush with potential and quite simply cool.  Marvel had better make absolutely certain there is a future iteration of this team.