Three for Thursday: Independent Comics Review: Mythic #3 and More


Every Thursday, I would like to discuss a handful of comics released for the week NOT from Marvel or DC. This week we look at three …

The Shrinking Man #1
Writer: Ted Adams
Artist: Mark Torres
Cover Artist: Mark Torres
Published by IDW

For the past month or so, I have noticed IDW comic covers done in a retro fashion reminiscent of the covers so popular in the 1940s and 50s. EC Comics was at the height of their publishing power back then, and the approach they took with their covers was meant to shock, frighten and otherwise catch a reader’s attention. It was a technique used by the “pulps” more or less contemporaneously, and EC applied it to their comic book titles. They were wonderfully successful.

EC Comics was a bit before my time, but I wrapped my head around them fairly early on in my childhood. I could always find an issue or two in one of my older cousins’ comic collections. And then later, preteen probably, I began to collect reprints of many titles. The adult themes in the stories attracted me, sure, but it was the distinctive EC covers that really drew me in. They were practically stories in themselves, frozen moments that often included monsters, exotic female shapes and wonky themes.

So when I began noticing the play on these covers these past few weeks at the comic shop, I was rightly intrigued. At first I thought a new reprint of EC titles was underway, but when I saw what the titles were … Well, I was deflated a bit. IDW had taken some of their properties –like Ghost Busters, G.I. Joe and TMNT—and created variant covers done in the recognizable EC style.

Sigh. Not for me.

But then I eyeballed IDW’s The Shrinking Man at the comic shop this week and a few things occurred to me. One, I remember fondly the old The Incredible Shrinking Man movie and how it seemed to spawn a decade’s worth of “shrinking” stories that included Land of the Giants and a film version of Asimov’s Fantastic Voyage. Those productions had a unique vibe and production quality and were a big part of my entertainment as a child. Second, the story of Scott Carey, the hero of The Shrinking Man, is a much more appropriate story to have commemorated with an EC-style cover than what IDW had done to this point. The Shrinking Man could very well have been, at least in part, included in an original EC comic. I also found myself thinking from a marketing perspective. With the recent release of Marvel’s Ant-Man, I was curious how competitors might take a swing at the whole shrinking-man plot device.

The Shrinking Man went home with me.

And I enjoyed it. Ted Adams, responsible for adapting Matheson’s novel to comic form, stayed true to the novel and its sense of horror and hopelessness. If somehow you have missed either the classic novel or the movie, The Shrinking Man details the odd story of Scott Carey as he discovers that he is shrinking by a seventh of an inch each day. At first, his situation seems to be little more than an inconvenience to Scott and his wife Louise. But as he begins to get smaller and smaller, his condition draws similarities to a terminal disease when he undergoes tests and more tests and nothing points to a cure. The way Scott and Louise talk, it almost sounds as if he has terminal cancer or the like.

From a narrative point of view, the story bounces between the present, where Scott, alone in his basement, is little more than an inch tall, and different times in the past, beginning with his initial contact with a “shimmering mist” on up to how he finds himself in the basement, alone and hunted. The first issue of The Shrinking Man only covers the story up to a certain point.

The artwork in The Shrinking Man is a bit inconsistent and detracts from the production. Still, between seeing the throwback EC cover coupled with the classic story, most fans of horror comics should get a kick out of this one.

From IDW:

"Richard Matheson’s exploration of shrinking manhood is brought to vivid life in this comic-book adaptation! Scott Carey, reducing 1/7” per day, faces tension big and small as his body continues to shrink away …"

Mythic #3
Writer: Hester, Phil
Artist: McCrea, John
Cover Artist: McCrea, John
Published by Image

Speaking of enjoyable comics, Image’s Mythic is now on its third issue. The first two issues introduced us to Mythic Lore Services and the jobs they take on as a global bunch of mystery hunters. They get into some crazy stuff. We have seen them end a drought in the American southwest by serving as therapists to a conscious mountain and her consort, the wind. We have seen a rock giant burn from within, exploding and killing a team of Mythic. And we have also seen the mysteries that lurk within Mythic itself: the legendary oracle Cassandra is part of their ranks, as is a dude with a Japanese demon alter-ego, an African fertility goddess, and a two-eyed cyclops, among others.

What I like most about the series, to date, is how Phil Hester, the writer, allows the reader to deduce for her or himself what is going on. He depicts, with the help of his artist, John McCrea, what this group is made up of and what they do, but he leaves the explaining to our imagination. We do not get enough of this in comics, in my opinion. Here in issue three, for example, Hester opens the comic with a battle between a giant talking komodo dragon and a giant aboriginal (Australian) toddler. It’s that “What the heck is going on here?” aesthetic that has more-or-less fueled the series to this point. That the toddler is actually an aboriginal deity and that the dragon is an escaped demon are deductions that Mr. Hester leaves to the reader are much appreciated by this reader, for one. In part, it is a matter of efficiency. Instead of spending time introducing and explaining, simply giving seems to make for a quicker, sweeter story.

And the story is getting more complex. What started out as your run-of-the-mill mystery team knocking off baddies in downtown Chicago has morphed into a textured story about a group of outlandish characters fighting off the end of the world. We still do not have a good handle on who is responsible for targeting Mythic, but it has been fun watching the different Mythic teams get ambushed and wiped out. In addition to the team that suffered as result of the rock giant possession, mentioned above, we have seen a team deep under the British Museum get flame fried by an animatronic version of Fenrir, the Norse hellhound. Another group is taken away by a gigantic, formerly mythic, hawk. And here in issue three, two of our main team of Mythic find themselves in battle with a big old worm that, if I remember my Norse mythology well enough, was a parasite in the tree Yggdrasil itself. “Someone is trying to Ragnarok us,” observes the dude with the Japanese demon alter-ego.

Mythic has surprised me with its quality storytelling, fine art and mind-bending play on characterizations. Not everything is what you first think it is, it seems to be saying. It may, in fact, be much, much worse. I welcome this storytelling device and look forward to much, much more.

Mythic #3, the Story So Far:

"Science is an illusion. A balm for humanity’s bone-deep ignorance. It adequately describes our observable world in a manner which brings us comfort: an opiate for the masses. But magic makes the world go ‘round. Mythic Lore Services is a global organization dedicated to keeping the hidden gears of our world turning, and keeping the veil drawn tight between what we think we know, and what we should never learn.After succeeding in ending the drought in the southwestern United States, Mythic Lore Services field team 8 receives news that every other field team in the organization has gone missing."

Resident Alien: The Sam Hain Mystery #3 (of 3)
Writer: Hogan, Peter
Artist: Parkhouse, Steve
Cover Artist: Parkhouse, Steve
Published by Dark Horse

And finally for today, let’s take a look at the final issue of Resident Alien: The Sam Hain Mystery.

I had high hopes for this series when it debuted. It was intelligently written and competently drawn, and the premise was fine enough: a marooned visitor from another planet takes on the guise of a small town’s doctor to pass the time until his eventual rescue. Sounds good, was good, but then it got boring.

For one, the “mystery” that this series revolves around is not much of a mystery. Dr. Harry, a.k.a. purple-skinned, pointy-eared, visitor from another planet, finds a manuscript for a novel underneath his floor. It would seem to implicate someone in a murder. And not just any murder, but a decades old murder of a beast of a man whose family did not even look for when he disappeared (sarcasm). Most of the series has been busy depicting this novel, sordid and simple both, as it is. Fortunately, both it and the series are over.

My writing teacher used to tell me, only write what you feel, deep and dark, what must be told. Save us all from your musings, half-baked opinions and emotionally scarred thoughts. Look outside yourself, make sure the story you tell is imperative. I wish the storytellers of Resident Alien: The Sam Hain Mystery had listened to this dictate. Having done such a good job of world-building, introducing us to an intriguing character and setting, and then falling flat with a mystery plot that would not have made it on the worst episode of Murder, She Wrote (that is, for you young folk, a simple story would not have made it to a television series famous for its simple), is nothing short of mind-boggling. They tell me a new Resident Alien series is due in 2016, and I say, who cares?

From Dark Horse:

"Seeking the truth behind a decades-old murder in the seemingly sleepy town of Patience, Washington, the stranded alien known as Dr. Harry Vanderspeigel learns a few lessons in human nature and forgiveness. A unique science-fiction/murder-mystery mash-up by creators Peter Hogan (Tom Strong) and Steve Parkhouse (Milkman Murders)!"

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