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  1. #1

    Default Contentious Opinion: Mysterius the Unfathomable is Not Very Good

    Many of my critical peers seem to think that Jeff Parker and Tom Fowler's "Mysterius the Unfathomable" is some kind of aesthetic high point.

    I think it's not very good at all.

    It's in-your-face and overly hysterical in its storytelling, and though I admire Fowler's style -- and the fact that it's different from the typical Wildstorm fare -- I think it's just ugly in this comic. It's really just a hideously colored "straight" version of Jack Davis's "Mad" lampoons.

    And Parker's story is nothing special, either.

    So why do people seem to like it so much?

    Convince me I'm wrong about "Mysterius."
    Timothy Callahan
    CBR Staff Writer

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  2. #2
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    Default is that all you have?

    "ugly" and "nothing special" are not particularly trenchant insights. I know this is your "Contentious Opinion" but you'll have to bring better than that. Unless, of course, you're just firing cheap shots to rile up the comics internet.

    Parker is one of the more interesting writers out there right now. I think the story is unusual, unexpected, funny, and occasionally horrifying. I also think the artwork suits the story well. It may be an acquired taste but now that I'm a few issues in, I can't imagine anyone with a more "realistic" style being on the book.

    It won't be for everyone, but it's for anyone who likes engaging, fresh, fun storytelling and needs a break from "gritty" heroes and their "problems."

  3. #3

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    But it's not fresh or fun, really. It is a break from the "dark" crybaby superhero melodrama, but it's just a mid-range 1990s Vertigo story with art from Cracked Magazine.

    Tell me what exactly is funny or horrifying or unexpected about the comic.
    Timothy Callahan
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  4. #4
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    I don't know how to convince you that you're wrong, because I'm one of those weak-willed milksops who thinks that opinions can't be wrong, per se (Misguided, sure...); you don't like it, and that's fine. I think there's a tonality that you're either not in tune with or doesn't enjoy that is what others - myself included - are responding to, though. I can see the Vertigo comparison on surface terms, but think that there's a... I don't want to say "whimsy," but that's the word I keep coming back to, that separates Mysterius from '90s Vertigo muddiness. It's much closer in tone to a Douglas Adams book than, say, The Trenchcoat Brigade or one of several million Sandman knock-offs. It's not just that it's aware of its own ridiculousness, but it rejoices in it, if that makes sense?

    What's funny about the comic for me is the writing, which is clearly comedic, and the staging, with the art taking things to a more obvious extreme. Maybe it's too extreme for you, or too broad?

    (I also have to seriously disagree with your characterization of Tom Fowler's art; yeah, there's a clear Jack Davis there, but I love it; it works for the largeness - and, for that matter, light satire - of the story, in addition to the novelty of it looking nothing like any other Wildstorm - or any other mainstream publisher - book around right now.)

  5. #5

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    Of course opinions can be wrong. I'm wrong all the time! (At least, that's what Punisher MAX fans tell me.)

    But yeah, Graeme, I think it's really Fowler's art that fails for me, because it is so hammy that it just underscores the comedic bits too much. It's the comic book equivalent of a laugh track.

    That doesn't mean you haven't worn away a bit at my veneer of disdain...
    Timothy Callahan
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  6. #6
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    How'd you feel about Kyle Baker's art in things like "You Are Here" and "I Die At Midnight"? I think that's much hammier/more slapstick than Fowler here, but in the same style...

  7. #7

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    Oooh, nice one.

    I love Kyle Baker, but not Tom Fowler, and that DOES seem like inconsistency on my part.

    I think Baker is ten times better than Fowler, but I guess that's because Baker does a better job using exaggeration to emphasize comedic moments rather than to ham them up to the level of the unfunny. Baker is the best of Will Ferrell, while Fowler is Jim Carrey and Rob Williams doing their usual schtick.

    Baker has a much better design sense too, so maybe that makes his work more appealing to me.

    But this is putting me in a position of knocking Fowler, and I don't want to do that. He's obviously a skilled artist. I just don't think "Mysterius" is a good comic. It's a two-star book that people keep telling me is a four or five star book. I'm just trying to figure out what it is that everyone else seems to see that I can't.
    Timothy Callahan
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  8. #8
    CBR Staff Writer Kiel Phegley!'s Avatar
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    Well, let me explain some of the things I like about both the art and the story, and then we can see if I'm way off from your take on it or if there's something I might be seeing that you didn't cotton to right away (unlikely, I'm sure, but what the hey).

    (Also, I should note I haven't been able to pick up #3 yet)

    What I like from Parker's story is that we're not being spoon fed anything in terms of the obvious notes that these kinds of projects usually hit. Yes, the lead is flamboyant magician bamboozling the public and our point of view character has a mysterious connection to magic/power all her own that we don't know the details on yet, but neither of the characters have those "but he really has a heart of gold" or "but her power hold an ominous portent that could destroy us all" kinds of metaphorical neon arrows telling you where you're supposed to believe things are going. At this point, I don't know if Mysterius is actually an altruistic guy or just available for cash gigs without questioning their outcome. And with Delfi, I don't get the over-used and ham-fisted "chosen one" nods that every other magic comic ever has used. Most of what I know about them comes through their interactions as characters, which has kept them intriguing while driving the plot forward.

    And the thing I've enjoyed about the plot so far is that despite setting up issues that feel very much like single units in the classic "one and done" style, the threads of each case are starting to coalesce into one larger plotline, but again...the writing isn't forcing me to put all my investment into one very obvious idea. There's no shadowy figure hanging just off panel, wringing his hands and declaring all sorts of melodramatic hogwash about how he's the ultimate evil and end of mankind and so on and so forth. I'm going on nothing more than a mere inkling that the snotty rich boy from issue #1 and the cursed hooker-fiend of the auction company have any connection between the circumstantial stuff and the fact that if they've gotten that much page time each, they can't be UNimportant to what happens next. And the introduction of the monster in the story book came without a precedent and is right now just creeping in the background waiting to be tied in. With so many balls in the air, I'm not getting bored or dragged down by the precedings as much as I'm waiting for the moment when things become clear. Parker's working a lot of misdirection in that sense, the same as a magic trick.

    You say that you think the story is predictable. I'd love to know what you think is going to happen next based on the first few issues because while I might have a few theories, I wouldn't warrant a guess as to how it "has" to turn out like I would 90% of big two superhero books, which all come super telegraphed by their adherence to Hollywood plotlines these days.

    As for the art (and in connection to it, the humor), I know that everything with this is personal, but I don't see how a slightly more exaggerated cartooning style necessarily takes one out of the story. The figure work and facial caricatures on the page are way more distinctive and expressive than most artists can pull off, and I really don't see Fowler pushing for any specific humor bent. In fact, while I've smiled at a few pages here and there (Mysterius' introduction on the splash page in #1 comes to mind), I can't think of anything that would stand out as a punchline-style humor payoff. Sure, there's an element of satire to the story thanks to the nature of the magicians world and how it relates to our modern culture, but I think Fowler's characters help that far more than they hurt it.

    And maybe you're right about this in terms of originality. I'm not sure I'll be able to say whether the book is 100% original until all is said and done, but even if it doesn't prove out to be "unlike any magic comic you've ever read!" I still think that the level of craft on display here is entertaining and well worth the price, especially considering the lack of such skills that go into a lot of what gets pumped out these days.

  9. #9
    New Member Chad Nevett's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TimothyCallahan View Post
    Of course opinions can be wrong. I'm wrong all the time! (At least, that's what Punisher MAX fans tell me.)
    Do we ever have conversations regarding comics where I don't tell you you're wrong at least once?

  10. #10
    Optic Blast, Optic Blast B. Kuwanger's Avatar
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    .....I'm not gonna try to top Kiel Phegley. In fact, all I can really do is agree. I think whatever lack of originality there is shouldn't be enough to stop anyone from having fun. It may feel familiar, like something out of Vertigo from years ago, but it's not "something," it's Mysterius. I think it'll go over better if you look at it as its own story.

    Sorry if that doesn't make sense, that's really the only way I can think to say it. I wasn't too big on Fowler the first issue, and then I just realized that it's not Baker or Wayshak or anyone, it's Fowler. I already have books by them, and those books aren't Mysterius.

    I hope you go over the series all at once when it ends, I'm pretty certain that Parker isn't just throwing this in just to throw it in.

  11. #11
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    You've described why you don't like it, but not why you don't think it's a good comic.

    You haven't talked enough craft to have a counter argument- all of your comments are pretty subjective.

    I personally enjoy it, but I don't know that it's anything worth arguing over. A fun comic with some smart plotting, and I personally think the art is terrific, and well-suited to the tone of the humor.

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