Shelby: Last issue, we discussed the merits of a superhero murder mystery. Patrick mentioned that the fluidity of the rules of the superhero world make for a much more fast and loose sort of mystery. It raises the question of how such a mystery can even exist; when you’ve got Emma Frost and Doctor Strange running around, how can you possibly know the answer to anything? I suppose that
is was the Watcher’s function; despite the number of characters who have the capability of knowing everything, Uatu was the only one who actually did. The entity for whom there was no mystery is now the subject of a murder mystery of epic proportions. That fact is not lost on writer Jason Aaron, who decides to further upend the concept of the murder mystery by telling us who did it in the second chapter.
Remember last time how we all thought Fury was assembling all these bizarro mini-teams to investigate? Well, we were all wrong! Teams Strange/Punisher and Black Panther/Frost/Ant-Man were put into play by a “mysterious boss”, and are making some strange discoveries of their own. Ant-Man, Emma, and Black Panther are deep underground with the Moloids, where they’ve found a massive graveyard of monsters and other creatures. Dr. Strange and Punisher (who should definitely have their own buddy-cop book after this) are in some sort of weird dimension, where they have also found massive monster murder victims. Meanwhile, Spider-Man, Wolverine, Cap, and Fury have apprehended another Mindless One, trying to “outrun [its] own mind.” About 2 dozen heroes track down Uatu’s murderers, who are revealed to be Oubliette the Exterminatrix and none other than the Orb.
Hahaha, ok. Aaron really decided to scrape the bottom of the barrel for his big bads here, didn’t he? If I needed any more convincing that this wasn’t going to be a traditional mystery, even for superheroes, this issue convinced me. I’m beginning to suspect that the mystery is not figuring out who killed the Watcher, but actually just figuring out what the mystery is. What drove a z-lister (as Aaron called him) like Orb to kill the Watcher? That is a crime that seems waaaaaaaaaay out of his league. How did he team up with Oubliette? She’s a pretty obscure villain in her own right, but should still way outclass the Orb, and yet he’s the one in charge. Is that some sort of radioactive Thing clone with them? I don’t even know what to make of that!
And that’s just the mysteries surrounding the mystery at the heart of this story; we’ve also got the rogue hero teams assembled by…someone. Are they working to actually solve the mystery of the Watcher’s death, or do they have an ulterior motive that we don’t even know about yet? It’s concerning that Dr. Strange is working for this mysterious other, since he seems to actually be pretty crucial to the investigation. If his boss has plans other than just finding the murderers (who have been found), he’s brought together some pretty powerful players to carry them out.
This even has a strange feel to it; it’s grim and dark, and yet kind of madcap and, dare I say, zany. Aaron is giving us this crime on a massive scale, plus the heavy implications of new-found sentience, personal evolution, and the price to pay for eating from the Tree of Knowledge. At the same time, Punisher and Strange work weirdly well together, Tony doesn’t feel the need to wear pants when he’s at work, and our mastermind is the Orb. A lot of that grimness comes from the art team of Mike Deodato and Frank Martin; Deodato’s pencils have an almost noir-ish quality to them, which is only highlighted by Martin’s high-contrast inks. When I turned the page for the big Orb reveal, I had both reactions of, “That is ridiculous,” and “That is bad-ass and awesome.” It reminds me a lot of what we saw in Aaron’s Godbomb arc in Thor; there’s that same blend of big concepts and heavy ideas with gung-ho enthusiasm for the weirder side of the Marvel universe.
So far, this event is weirder than the wildest expectations I could have had, and I honestly hope it stays that way; there’s really no other way to deal with an entity as weird as Uatu. Drew, what did you think of this second chapter? The Orb? Really?
Drew: I’m glad you mentioned Aaron’s Godbomb arc, as I think this series is going to fit in perfectly with that “doing something very silly, very seriously” tone. While that series had Thor riding on a space-shark that shot lasers out of its nose (if you think that’s hyperbole, you should really click that link), this issue has Tony wearing the Iron Man mask with a robe.
The issue is downright dripping with this kinds of ridiculously comic-book-y moments, from that giant green bullet Frank pulls out of that monster to Nick Fury firing a rocket launcher at a flying car while wearing a jetpack to the fact that the mystery man pulling the strings is credited as “Mysterious Boss”. You’re absolutely right to suggest that this both ridiculous and bad-ass — it’s basically comics in a nutshell.
Part of what makes that ridiculousness work so well is Deodato’s remarkably serious art. He’s the perfect straight-man, illustrating all of Aaron’s absurdities with a total deadpan. Setting the Mindless One’s recitation of Gertrude Stein in the same tone as, say, Deodato’s work on New Avengers, gives it a ballast that’s hard to replicate, allowing Aaron to throw the silliness in even starker contrast. This looks like Marvel at its most serious, but taken with the self-consciously absurd situations, we get something incredibly funny that just-so-happens to be gorgeous.
Shelby, I’m glad you brought up the Genesis-y overtones of all of this business with the Mindless Ones, as I think this event’s name is more than an empty reference. I believe the very point of this series (and perhaps many of the tie-ins) is that ignorance is bliss,and that knowledge brings misery and may be inherently sinful. We haven’t yet gotten any hints as to what kind of painful knowledge is in store in this series (perhaps it’s simply the knowledge of who killed the Watcher?), but it’s almost certainly linked to whoever is pulling the strings of our mismatched team-ups, as well as whoever is behind the Orb’s plans.
Oh, right: the Orb insists that he’s not the murderer we’re looking for. That may turn out to be a failed attempt at a Jedi mind-trick, but I’m inclined to believe that the real mystery here may not have been solved so easily. Time will tell (I hesitate to make any concrete guesses, since, as we’ve already established, virtually anything is possible in this series), but I think there’s a lot more investigating to do before we start naming folks as the murderer. Either way, we still need to establish motive and means, hopefully beyond simply looking like the stolen eye.
I’m struggling to find another word, but I’ll be damned if it isn’t one of the most ridiculous premises I’ve ever read. “Moon murder mystery mines many memorable moments for Marvel’s mightiest mentors.” Any way you put it, this series feels very much like Aaron has opened Marvel’s entire toy-chest, and is having a blast pairing them up for absurd superhero nonsense. It’s not nearly as serious as it looks, but that allows it to be a heck of a lot more fun.
For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page. Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore. If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to Comixology and download issues there. There’s no need to pirate, right?