8.20.2013

The Mysterious Strangers #1-2 [Kamak's Corner]

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 disappointment. 

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+.

8 Comments:

At 11:09 AM, Blogger James Lucas Jones said...

For the record, we actually published MONDO URBANO, a book by Rafael Albuquerque, Mateus Santolouco, and Eduardo Medeiros. ;)

 
At 1:51 PM, Blogger Justin Giampaoli said...

JLJ,

Thanks for stopping by and... ahem, "educating" young Mr. Kamak!

Justin

 
At 2:31 PM, Blogger Brian Kamak said...

Kudos for noticing the talents of Rafael when he was a rising star. I would love to see more art of that caliber in your books!

Maybe you can steal Jim Lee away from DC for a few months.

-Kamak

 
At 2:32 PM, Blogger Brian Kamak said...

James, when are you bringing The Damned back? We are dyin to know!!!

 
At 10:32 AM, Blogger James Lucas Jones said...

Art is so subjective! While my favorites and your faves probably don't have a ton of overlap on the ol' Venn diagram, I can still appreciate your perspective. I feel lucky to work with folks I view as the best in the business--Scott Kowalchuk, Ted Naifeh, Chris Schweizer, Bryan O'Malley and Joelle Jones to name just a few--despite each having a different style. They're all storytellers with different strengths.

THE DAMNED will be back, but only with Cullen & Brian both on board and right now THE SIXTH GUN is their focus.

 
At 1:42 PM, Blogger Justin Giampaoli said...

Joelle's art is gorgeous!

 
At 11:35 AM, Blogger Brian Kamak said...

Thank you for the update!!!

You are fortunate!!

 
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