Jude Terror takes a look at Wildstorm's Mysterius the Unfathomable trade paperback from Jeff Parker and Tom Fowler!
Mysterius the Unathomable
Written by Jeff Parker; Art and cover by Tom Fowler Explore the unimaginable world of magic and adventure with an eccentric magician known as Mysterius the Great in this paperback collecting the acclaimed 6-issue miniseries. When a young reporter named Ella becomes Mysterius' new assistant, their cases drag them into a world of magic, as well as a pocket dimension... and beyond.
- $17.99 US
Mysterious the Unfathomable is an unusual comic book just as its title character is an unusual hero. A tribute to pulp tales of magic and adventure, it would be easy for such a book to slip into the cliches of the genre, especially in an age where noir and pulp pastiches are very hip. However, by refusing to take itself too seriously, this series stands out on its own merits instead of relying on a noir trade dressing and Parker's indie cred to sell copies.
A big part of this achievement must be attributed to artist Tom Fowler's detailed but cartoonish style. Though Fowler's name may be unfamiliar to many, his distinct artwork is instantly recognizable due to his work in Mad Magazine's Monroe strip. Fowler's modern style brings a freshness to the book's pulpy tone, with just the right amount of exaggeration polishing a strong, confident grasp of anatomy, backgrounds and action.
The title character, an arrogant, self-centered, overweight magician named Mysterius is not the protagonist of this book. That honor goes to his assistant, Ella, nicknamed Delphi. However, though Mysterius appears outwardly foolish, even to the point of physically resembling a clown, he is at heart a skilled magician who has been at the top of his game for decades. Perhaps the greatest magic trick of all is turning this arrogant, immoral character into a likable human being. Whenever the reader begins to realize that Mysterius is a no-good son of a bitch, his outwardly selfish actions are betrayed by a touch of emotion for his young assistant or a hint of vulnerability.
Ella herself also avoids the pitfalls of her own character archetype. A less talented writer might have made Ella a goody-two-shoes, but Parker blends her innocent and good-hearted manner with just a little pragmatism. Ella isn't above a little self-indulgence as long as its mostly harmless. She doesn't mind playing the role of conscience to a lovable bastard like Mysterius.
Parker paces the story perfectly, with each chapter revealing new layers to the world which the characters inhabit. By the end, the reader has an inkling of many of the rules, concepts, and conventions in the history of Mysterius's universe, going all the way back to the magician's adventures in the early part of the 20th century, and including some inkling of the interlocked destinies of Mysterius and his long line of assistants.
Mysterius the Unfathomable takes the reader on an exciting adventure from the streets of Boston to the issue's climactic desert-based hippie parking-lot festival by way of a demonic-yet-childlike storybook world, equal parts H.P. Lovecraft and Dr Seuss. Mysterius manages to make allusions to Anton LaVey, Charles Manson, and Jim Jones, in a way that is, incredibly, light-hearted and humorous.
If you're a fan of hipster comics with literary merit, but also of unabashed, silly fun, Mysterius is for you!