May 29th 2010 By: Chris Murphy
ADMIRATION AND JEALOUSY. THERE'S PROBABLY A COOL GERMAN WORD THAT COMBINES THOSE - Mystery Society 1
Creating an action hero leading man involves walking a fine line between making a character jaw-droppingly amazing and making him unbearably perfect. Yes, the hero needs to have a cool mode of transportation. He needs gadgets and/or super-powers. He has to have the combined acrobatic skills of every member of Cirque du Soleil that has ever lived and be such a skilled martial artist that he could have one armed tied behind his back and still win a fight against a four-armed Bruce Lee.
And yet for every new incredible talent or advantage the hero is granted, we the audience find him just a little harder to relate to, and we grow that slightest bit more jealous of the infallible jerk. Because we're merely ordinary mortals who'll never be able to achieve his amazing feats, and each new splendid task only rubs our faces in that raelity.
I can't remember the last time I saw a hero so close to the edge between incredible and insufferable than Nick Hammond, also known as Nick Mystery (admittedly, the fact that he's also known as Nick Mystery probably isn't helping his case). Nick's one of the two co-founders of the "Mystery Society," the conspiracy-investigating group that gives its name to the new series created by Steve Niles and Ashley Wood, written by Niles with art by Fiona Staples and published by IDW.
Nick looks like a golden age Hollywood star complete with pencil thin mustache and rakish grin. And when it comes to action scenes, Nick is to James Bond what James Bond is to any character ever played by Woody Allen*. He single-handedly incapacitates an entire squad of elite troops and killer robots while breaking into Area 51 after driving there in his rocket car, and during his extended one man destruction of the security forces of a secret government facility he's already planning his schedule for the rest of the day over the phone with his hot wife Anastasia Collins, who is simultaneously flirting with him. At least until she pauses briefly to fight off an undead interloper who breaks into the couple's lavishly decorated headquarters.
The only thing keeping at bay the bitter jealous parts of me that want to hate Nick is the fact that as the issue opens he's been arrested and sent to a maximum security prison. And yet even in this dire situation he's still passionately speaking about the truths he and his wife are struggling to bring to the public. The rest of the issue, the entire Area 51 break-in, is told as a flashback. It marks the point in the Mystery Society's history when it began to bring in new recruits while at the same time making dangerous new enemies.
And, honestly, the book is a lot of fun. It mixes over-the-top action scenes with all manner of conspiracy theory hallmarks, from secret government research facilities brimming with hi-tech toys to aliens to the supernatural to psychic powers. The interplay between Nick and Anastasia is great, even if it sometimes gets close to portraying the couple as smug trust-fund supported conspiracy theorists. But the more I think about it, the more I lean towards the belief that creating main characters who I'm not sure if I entirely like actually creates an interesting dynamic to the book. Because I'm still getting a sense of who these people really are, I'm more curious to watch "Mystery Society" unfold its multiple conspiracies and reveal the backstory behind the couple and their self-declared mission to make the hidden truths of the world no longer hidden.
*(Upon reading this line, some of you may have thought, "But in the 1967 version of 'Casino Royale,' Woody Allen does play James Bond. To which I say, "Congratulations." And also, "Nobody likes a know-it-all, show-off.")