Reading Some Comics

Over the last several months I’ve been reading a pair of 4 issue mini-series comics: Mystic from Marvel, written by G. Willow Wilson with art by David Lopez, and Bonnie Lass from Red 5 comics, by Michael Mayne and Tyler Fluharty. The two of them share several superficial similarities, like being 4 issues long, having female leads and sharing a similar art style. I also really like the first issue of both series. Unfortunately, as they came to an end Bonnie Lass kept up the quality of the first issue and Mystic faltered badly. Perhaps by comparing the two I can show why one worked and the other didn’t.

Both of them had good first issues. Bonnie Lass sets up its cast and the plot efficiently and effectively. It isn’t an especially complex story, but it gives the reader a quick impression of Bonnie, Ben and Trick as well as their quest. The crew finds a treasure map and are pursued by mercenaries hired by a menacing, shadowy figure. It also sets up Bonnie’s oedipal complex-ish thing. (her father is married to the sea and she wants to take it from him and replace him as the world’s premiere buccaneer.) Mystic starts similarly strong. It introduces Genevieve and Giselle, two orphans who are close as sisters despite diametrically opposed viewpoints. They live in a downright Dickensian orphanage in their flawed steam punk world where the magic that gives the world its wonders are reserved only for the rich and powerful. By the end of the issue, one of the girls has realized the others dream of being chosen to learn the “Noble Arts,” setting up a conflict inequity of the world tears the former friends apart.

Mystic’s story is obviously much more complex than Bonnie Lass’s story. The problems arise with how they follow up on the first issue. After the first issue, Bonnie and her crew search out the treasure on the map and constantly fight with the mysterious shadowy man from the first issue. (I’m trying not to spoil too much because you should read it yourself) Everything from that first issue is followed up on in the next three. Though it is a simple rather simple story, it is executed very nicely. Mystic, on the other hand, gets increasingly muddled and confused after the first issue, squandering the fine set up of the first issue and ignoring the central conflict. Instead, it gives the reader some Mean Girls or Harry Potter-esque magic school hijinks.

Mystic focuses on Giselle, the girl chosen to learn magic and her struggles at the school while almost completely ignoring Genevieve, who is left on the street using her self taught skills to help a group of revolutionaries. The first issue showed that the world is corrupt, that it needs to be fixed, but the rest of the issues ignore that. In the end the story of two friends on opposite sides of a growing conflict is swept aside for a much less interesting story about saving the world from some generic apocalypse. There is no resolution between Genevieve and Giselle, any confrontation or reconciliation is put off.

That is the real problem with Mystic. It is written like the first 4 issues of a supposedly longer tale, setting up storylines and characters that will never have a chance to matter. Because there likely will never be anymore Mystic. Bonnie Lass tells a 4 issue story in its 4 issues. There are hooks for further stories and adventures, but it tells the story it has space for. Mystic has much greater ambitions, but doesn’t have the space to realize them, leaving it a anti-climatic disappointment.

If more of either of these series were to come along, I would probably by them. Bonnie Lass was good enough that I am eager for more. More Mystic might make good on the promise that the first issue showed. But I don’t see people pounding down the doors to get more of something as disappointing as Mystic turned out to be in the end.

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