By Contributing Writer Brian Kamak
The Mysterious Strangers #1-2 (Oni Press): “Oni Press… who’s that?” This is a
question you might be asking yourself, if you’re anything like me. Oni is the
independent publisher located in Portland, Oregon, perhaps most noted for monthlies-turned-movies
Whiteout, which put Greg Rucka on the map as a comic book writer, and Bryan Lee
O'Malley’s infamous Scott Pilgrim. Most recently, they’ve been getting a great deal of
buzz thanks to Brian Hurtt and Cullen Bunn’s work on The Damned, The Sixth Gun,
and Helheim, as well as the upcoming Letter 44, by Charles Soule and Alberto Albuquerque.
The art in most Oni Press titles has never blown me away.
It’s always just been there. Yet, in spite of my disinterest, it always seems
to have a perfect strategic partnership with the title. This constant holds
true for The Mysterious Strangers. I
don’t know if Oni can attract talents like Esad Ribic or Rafael Albuquerque, to
name two of my current favorites, and I’m not sure if they care to.
Chris Roberson’s story takes place during a “strange time”
when “Astronauts from east and west race to be the first to reach the moon, teenagers
shimmy and frug to pop music.” Illustration by Scott Kowalchuk and coloring by
Dan Jackson are executed with a 50’s mod tackiness. When I turn every page, I
expect to hear the opening music to FX’s Archer. Yes, The Mysterious Strangers
plays like homage, maybe parody, to various pop culture artifacts from decades past. The
coloring captures the era perfectly, but for me the pencils lack so much detail
that at times it detracted from the experience. There are no panels that stood
out as memorable, and even the cover’s ode to the pulps of yesteryear is a
The cast contains the beauty Verity Mills, the playboy Michael Kono,
the muscle Sandoval, and the wheelchair-bound leader Absalom Quince, biting too
much off of Professor X or The Chief from Doom Patrol perhaps? (The thing about
homage is that it’s usually unoriginal by definition). After reading the first
two issues oddly released the same day, I still don’t know what their powers
are other than the ability to drain electricity and to be bulletproof.
The action takes place on the island of Hidalgo, which
houses an alien ship hidden from sight decades ago by the natives in the form
of ancient pyramids. The mother ship had been long forgotten until rediscovered
by a member of the evil O.C.C.U.L.T. As member Tatu uses his mind control
powers to control Hidalgo’s President, The Mysterious Strangers attempt to infiltrate
the island, until Sandoval becomes the latest victim of Tatu’s mind control,
aiding O.C.C.U.L.T. in capturing the other Strangers. People are transformed
into aliens by the pyramid’s power, dialogue that is way too corny to repeat
occurs at a regular clip, and the stellar closing line of the first issue
leaves us with “Could this be the end for The Mysterious Strangers?” (Maybe
that’s why the second issue was released the same day).
Despite my resistance to the art and The Mysterious
Strangers’ reliance on homage, these are probably two of the most campy,
fun-loving books I’ve read in some time. I loved every page of its zany delight. This book is way too playful and
carefree to pass up. It’s just become my most guilty pleasure in the comic book
world, and I’m secretly looking forward to the next issue. Oni Press truly is
the underdog that I’m silently cheering for. Grade B+.