After enjoying the preview images for Saga I started a hunt to read some Fiona Staples material, and came across Mystery Society during my Boxing Day sale shopping.
Nick Hammond and Anastasia Collins are the Mystery Society and bring new meaning to “underground cult” status! Stealthily avoiding the authorities, this skulduggery duo spend their time and money righting wrongs committed in the world’s underbellies. Now, experience the group’s early exploits in this first collection from the mind of Steve Niles!
Fun is the best way to describe this work. It doesn’t take itself seriously; the plot has humourous slants and the characters are at times silly. And because of that you’ll be turning pages, smirking, and think to yourself how fun Mystery Society is.
We start off with immediate action but learn through flashbacks Nick and Anastasia ran an occult book shop until they won the lottery, at which point they formed the Mystery Society and began investigating all manner of odd bits. Nick busts into Area 51 to rescue twins that are being held there; actually it opens with Nick going to prison but then we start jumping around. From that point we form our story of two against the government and their over the top violence and extreme measures; the government, not our heroes.
While Nick and Anastasia are the normals in this tale we quickly become acquainted with Secret Skull, a girl who’s dead, and Jules Verne, or more accurately Jules Verne’s brain in a century old robot body. As I said, kooky and fun. The villain is agent Powell, a government secret agent that is prone to fits of rage and violence. The story has a lot to say about the government and militarism but it’s kept behind a humorous facade. To lighten the story just a little more Skull and Verne go on a case by themselves to recover Poe’s skull; hilarity ensues.
While the situations and plot are well drafted it’s the dialogue that keeps you interested. Niles gives us Nick and Nora Charles for the conspiracy occultist science fiction crowd. We’re not burdened with back story and long character development: Niles presents the framework and builds within it. Who knows how bookstore owners developed shooting and martial arts skills, or where they bought all their fancy gear, or where Jules Verne’s brain has been hanging out until now. We don’t need that baggage to get in and enjoy.
Fiona Staples has a clean long style, angular. Her credit on this is “artwork” so that’s pencils, inks and colours. Characters are expressive and well developed. Backgrounds detailed as needed, colours muted. Clean. Equally adept at action scenes or a page of talking heads.
Mystery Society includes a good selection of additional material from Staples: character studies and all covers. No introduction or afterward. A good value at $20 as this will stand up to several reads. I included the cover image at the top even though it’s incorrect: Ashley Wood has no credits in the work but for this collected edition’s announcement IDW showed that cover.
Originally published at Comic Book Daily.