Fiona Staples is probably my favorite artist working in comics today. She’s economical and clean and I love the way she draws emotion and expression in her characters. I’d never even heard of her before Saga, and her involvement is 100% why I picked up Mystery Society in the first place.
Steve Niles was an unknown for me, though upon inspection I probably should have looked at his work a long time ago. A lot of the titles he’s associated with - 30 days of Night being the big one - are pretty firmly in the category of Not Being My Thing (for future reference - zombies are not my thing), and I’m still not entirely sure how I feel about him as a writer.
Mystery Society is a 70s Avengers-esque frothy and fun romp through military bases and literary history. It’s very setup-heavy, in that it isn’t a long book and none of the conflicts feel very earthshaking, but you can see what groundwork needed laying before (assumed) further adventures.
The cast are appealingly diverse and odd - Nick Hammond and Anastasia Collins, married couple and titular Mystery Society, Secret Skull (an entertainly sardonic female ghoul called Samantha) and Verne. Verne is the brain of Jules Verne in a robot body, and while this as an idea feels a bit trite, in action it’s sort of ungainly and adorable. The pairing of Verne and Secret Skull is a fun alongside to the central action - being Nick and Ana’s rescuing of a secret government project involving the imprisonment of a pair of pre-teen girls - Sally and Nina.
The art is slick and lovely, surprising no one, and I do think my fondness for Staples’ art influenced the appeal of the characters for me. A later story illustrated by Andrew Ritchie is nowhere near as engaging.
The main structure is occupied with setting up the questions that will assumedly be answered later - the immaturity and the power of the twins, the logistics of Samantha’s biology, the sudden wealth of the central pair and how exactly they learnt espionage and fighting to the level where they are breaking into government facilities. It’s a hard call. I’m conditioned to expect that these will be dealt with and fleshed out in the future, but if we treat this book as a standalone - which we should, really - it reads as fickle world building. The twins appear and disappear when necessary and are fitted out with an arsenal of undefined abilities, meaning there’s no consistent internal science and no clear explanation of what can be expected of them. They became omnipotent very quickly, and the government seems to give them up startlingly easily considering the threat they present.
The overall feeling from the book is a kind of indulgent adventure with some great art and the potential to be really expansive and interesting. I would pick up the next issue if I saw it, but it was published 2013 and I’ve not heard anything since. I hope there is more of it; it sort of reminds me of Fables: Legends in Exile, which I didn’t think was phenomenal when I read it, but when further volumes appeared the whole arc became one of my favorites.
Five out of ten. Better than many things out there, but also a bit undercooked.