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"Mysterious Ways" #1 Comic Book Review

Mysterious Ways is a new Top Cow title
from writer Jason Rubin, a legend in video game circles as the
co-founder of Naughty Dog, responsible for Crash Bandicoot, Jak
and Daxter and Uncharted, and artist Tyler Kirkham, who has done work
for Top Cow, Marvel and DC on characters ranging from Lara Croft to
Green Lantern to the Transformers.

Judging by the first issue, the book is
well-named. There’s a lot of mysterious situations set up, but very
little payoff in this issue itself. This is not, judging by the first
issue, a throwback to the kind of Silver Age story where you could
read one issue and feel like you’ve got a complete story. It’s
modern, decompressed storytelling and it feels written for larger
story arcs.

Mysterious Ways opens with a brutal
murder, with a woman begging for her life as a mysterious man who has
tied her to a bed frame cuts her with a knife. We only see the man in
shadow, but we’re left with the possibility that he might actually be
the protagonist of the book, Sam.

Sam is a down and out, sad sack ex-con.
He used to be a former cop but spent some time in jail for an earlier
murder. We aren’t told much about why Sam committed this murder, only
that he felt he was justified and doesn’t regret it. He’s somehow
gotten an early release for saving the life of a guard, on the
condition that he see a psychiatrist.

Sam is a terrible, sloppy drunk.
Kirkham has given him an interesting body type; in some ways Sam
looks cut and ripped, an ugly but hulking neanderthal. But when
he’s shown without his shirt he has a big belly and looks disgusting.
He’s also covered Marine and other tattoos.

Sam isn’t a likable character. He’s
ugly and mean-spirited to everyone but his cat, even people that are
trying to help him. An FBI agent who is hunting Sam seems cooler, but
there are big hints that he’s evil and tied to the conspiracy behind
the murders.

The action in the first issue centers
on the hunt for Sam, who is the primary suspect in the murder, even
though the MO seems a lot different than the murder he was convicted
of and there’s clearly more going on. Supernatural elements come into
play when Sam is saved by a mysterious blind man who can nevertheless
drive and when Sam realizes he has some mysterious powers. Are they
related to some weird metal pieces he found in his pocket?

This is a book that practices extreme
conservation of characters. The bar that Sam drinks at is the one
where his ex-fiance, who hates him and calls him a murderer, works.
The FBI agent that is doggedly hunting Sam just happens to be the
boyfriend of the woman that was murdered. There’s another detective
that apparently worked with Sam on the force.

Because all these characters know Sam
they can provide an important service to the story: exposition. A lot
of people have conversations about things they really shouldn’t have
to talk about to fill us in on the back story. It’s a common
storytelling device and not too egregious, but I think I would have
preferred a nice flashback or prologue sequence instead.

This book also features an extreme
amount of swearing. I personally love swearing, but here it seems a
little forced, a little too much like the writer is trying a little
too hard give the series an HBO Original Series feel.

The art is very much in the muscular
hyper-detailed, lots-of-extra-lines style made popular by people like
Todd McFarlane, Marc Silvestri and Jim Lee and will be largely a
matter of taste. I’ve always been more partial to simpler and cleaner
linework, but Kirkham’s intricate detail works well with the gritty,
grimy story this book sets out to tell, and I had no problem
following the story.

Bottom line, if you like crime stories
with supernatural overtones and decompressed stories that
take their time to get going and the kind of art style that made a
lot of the Image guys famous, then Mysterious Ways might be for you.
It’s still a mystery which way this book will go, but it looks
promising.

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