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Mystery In Space #1
posted August 18, 2006
Jim Starlin, Shane Davis, Matt Banning, Al Milgrom
DC Comics, $3.99, 48 pages
Reading Mystery In Space
reminded me of the time I found my best friend growing up still listened to the Canadian rock band Rush, and we sat down in the 21st Century over sandwiches and sodas on a Sunday afternoon in his basement office and listened to an album not ten years old from a band I thought gone twenty-five. The feelings have more to do with nostalgia than any genuine reaction to the work itself; suddenly, each looms larger as a part of your past for simply having survived to within shouting range of your present. It's only when you dive in a second time when the fresh rush of memories fades away you figure out if you like the thing or not. I have to be honest: I no longer have the disc my friend made for me, and I doubt five years from now I'll still own this comic.
Mystery In Space
#1 presents two introductory stories, one written by 1970s superhero space odyssey master Jim Starlin and the other both written and drawn by him. The former uses a combination of flash forward and flashback techniques in service of a simple narrative set-up: a basic western where Captain Comet is both the semi-retired gunfighter and the cheekier new shootist, "Hardcore Station" is Tombstone, and various ugly-so-obviously-evil greater forces conspire how to keep him (them?) from interfering in their plans. Neither the details of the science fiction world they inhabit nor the standard Starlin rebirth motif that dominates the flashback manages to rise above cosmic comic cliche; it's almost as if the narrative is trying
to stay nondescript on some level. The back-up story featuring "The Weird" is, as one might expect, more refreshingly odd. The story also introduces and resurrects its lead. This wearer of an ugly, ill-fitting costume and one of Marty Feldman's eyes, The Weird batters the reader with a horizon-line dull, ongoing monologue. His constant stream of descriptive talk reads like something a Martin Short character on SCTV
might have managed. It's loopy but mostly boring. Were he in your living room, you would probably spend a lot of time telling The Weird to shut the fuck up.
There might be something to an analysis of how matter of fact each story treats the return from death of its protagonists, but I'm not sure the comic deserves a the full energy of that kind of effort. A lot of the book's power seems presumed, predicated on the fact that it's Jim Starlin doing this stuff than on anything noteworthy in the result. Still, if I were to dig into heavier analysis of plot, I might start with the fact that beyond the glowing beings and shiny computer banks and the like, both characters seems enormously psychologically sedate about the whole life/death thing. The Weird greets his return to life with all the warmth of a man stepping onto a bus, while if either Captain Comet has strong feelings about the contantly horrible situation in which he finds himself, he is largely unable to express them. In the end, though, it's the dullness of the world to which they return that seems the crying shame. The extraordinary made ordinary through a heroic lead is a frequently rewarding way to treat lighter science fiction. But Captain Comet seems bored, and The Weird comes across as oblivious. Niether connects with the plain gray background of the DC Universe, and because they don't, you likely won't, either.