The Unknown: The Devil Made Flesh #1(of 4)
Writer: Mark Waid
Artist: Minck Oosterveer
The first Unknown mini-series was one of my surprise favourites of the first half of this year, whilst everyone else was going gaga over Irredeemable, Mark Waid was also telling one of the most enjoyable and intelligent comics available. The adventures of Catherine Allingham and Joe Doyle were funny, full of life, and had lots of ideas. And even though I found the lack of answers to the central mystery a bit of a problem, I was still hopeful for more Unknown stories.
And now it's here, 'The Devil Made Flesh is set a year on from the first series, and right away it's clear things have changed. First of all, Catherine, who supposedly only had 6 months to live... is still alive. And she's not working with Joe, she doesn't even remember him. Instead she's trucking around with a statuesque blonde called Adriana, telling her she's got 6 months to live too. Joe's not gone though, he confronts Adriana, wanting to know what's going on, he too has spotty patches in his memory.
In this new mini, Mark Waid seems to have shifted the focus of the Unknown a bit, whereas as the first story revolved around a big metaphysical mystery, 'Where do we go when we die?', this new series has twisted it so the mystery we're following is about the characters. For me it's a great decision, we don't just want a simple re-tread, and it should hopefully allow for Waid to give us some more satisfactory answers to all of our questions. It also helps that now, after the first mini, we are invested in Catherine and Joe, this mystery is more gripping.
But that's not to say that there isn't the same mix of fun out there mysteries as there was in the first series. Catherine and Adriana briefly debunk some Italian Ghosts in typical Allingham fashion, (seriously, I think Mark Waid has the best pseudo-science in the biz) and the serial killer in the small town which causes Catherine and Joe's memory loss has a great hook which ties back in to the first mini. Especially with the ending, which... hoo boy, it's a shocker, one of the most immediately arresting cliffhangers I've read since Y: The Last Man, if you think Irredeemable leaves you on the edge of your seat... this is worse!
The artwork by Minck Oosterveer also shows an improvement from the first series. He was already good, but now he's even better. I love his facial expressions, and how he actually uses different body types for Catherine and Adriana! I do hope we get to see the thin-lipped grey dude again, he was creepy.
This first issue ably demonstrates to me that Mark Waid isn't content to rest on his laurels here, he's not going to repeat himself. He's tooken everything that worked with the series, and made it better, the mysteries have a personal edge, and anything can happen. I really don't know what's going to happen next, and I suppose it's perfect for The Unknown.