For all the hell I've thrown in the direction of David Liss for Black Panther: Man Without Fear (which itself has shown signs of growing out of my problems with it), I've been consistently enjoying what he's doing with Mystery Men, which is an exploration into Marvel's seldom-seen pre-Captain America years.
In Mystery Men #4, we finally get the whole team together for the first time, and we realize acutely why they are not actually a team. The Operative, The Revenant and The Aviatrix are out to avenge the death of Alice Starr, whom they all have a strong personal connection to, while The Surgeon and Achilles are out to murder the living hell out of The General, who is really an unrelentingly evil bastard. Both of their goals coincide, but the first three have no interest in the 'murder' part, while the Surgeon is scarred so badly he's long past caring, while Achilles is making use of a power amulet that almost requires him to kill people to save years of his life, making each fight into something where he has to weigh the worth of his opponent's life against how much he values his own. That's a truly genius bit of morality wrangling.
The General, who is also the father of The Operative much to both of their chagrins, is in the thrall of Nox, a Fear-Lord demoness we've seen in the pages of Dr. Strange, but here drawn to be a lot more vampish and period-style slick. There is nothing not evil about these two – they've kidnapped children (even Charles Lindbergh's son) for some unknown purpose that we can likely guess as sacrifices for power. We see that the General is starting to lose some of his edge and become more pliable to Nox as things move on and, oh, by the way, he's also a motherscratchin' werewolf now. Complete with his own army of wolves (maybe the children turn into those, too?) that makes this threat into more than these new mystery men and women can handle.
We also get more backstory on the Revenant, who was led suddenly to this life by a bigoted cop's moment of spite, and we also end this issue with a truckload of setbacks for our heroes, not only in their quest to stop their powerful enemies, but even in being a team, as interpersonal turmoil pulls even the core three apart. There's just so much interesting stuff going on here that we already wish this wasn't a miniseries, but rather an ongoing one.
Patrick Zircher's art and Andy Troy's colors also really make this work, giving it that snazzy noir feel we always like in our 1930s stories. The noir thing will just never NOT be cool. It's impossible. It defined cool.
And Mystery Men is just a damn cool book. Give us more.
CRAVE ONLINE RATING: 9/10