Buy This Book: Phil Hester And John McCrea’s ‘Mythic’ Is Working Class Magic
When you pick up a new comic by Phil Hester and John McCrea, you pretty much expect it to be good. Hester, after all, has produced amazing work as both a writer and an artist on titles like Green Arrow and Firebreather, going all the way back to The Wretch, while McCrea was, among other things, the co-creator of one of my all-time favorite comics, Hitman. They've got a track record, is what I'm getting at, so when they pair up and launch a new series, you expect it to be good.
With Mythic, they're bringing a rip-roaring adventure to a world full of magic at a pace that doesn't leave time to explain anything to its readers, and they're happily blowing their biggest surprises in the next-issue blurbs just to make sure you keep reading, and it's not just good. It's great.
Before we go any further, yes, this is a book about an organization of supernaturally powered people formed into small units to go out and deal with magical problems like monsters, and as such, it is laboring under the all-consuming shadow that Mike Mignola has cast with the past 22 years of Hellboy. It's a comparison that's unavoidable in that particular subgenre, and in all honesty, it's not one that Mythic seems like it's avoiding --- in fact, it almost feels like it's taking it head on.
That's the first big hook of the series, in fact; the way that Hester and McCrea set themselves apart from similar books. While those usually focus on elite teams of powerful but tragically flawed operatives, waging an endless war against the darkness alongside a mystically powered military, Mythic is focused on a bunch of people who are pretty much just doing a job.
Not that the vocational aspect of the book means that the stakes are any lower. The story that runs through these first three issues is, after all, about an attack by unknown forces trying to kill off the entire organization --- of which our heroes are one of many small teams --- by orchestrating the actual end of the world. Which, when you really get right down to it, seems like a bit of overkill, but I'll come back to that in a second.
It also doesn't mean that it's a job being done solely by regular folks. Nate, our nominal viewpoint character for the first issue, seems to be about as normal as they come, at least in the issues so far.
Everyone else, though, is packing some pretty heavyweight powers, to the point where we're actually seeing mythic figures on the teams --- oh hey, like the name of the book. I just got that. Venus and Cassandra are on the team, and even the ones that you might not recognize from Greek and Roman Mythology have some pretty fantastic powers. Watterson, for instance, can plant his tooth in the ground, hydra style, to summon his "other half," a towering beheaded monster who goes by the name of Killer Of Enemies.
Again: a little bit over the top. But we're getting there.
That's the second hook of Mythic: It moves. If you don't recognize Cassandra's name from that whole thing with Apollo and the snakes --- or if you don't recognize Finn McCool or Surtur the fire giant or the other folks showing up int he book --- it's not a comic that's going to hold your hand and provide the answers. They'll be fleshed out eventually, of course, and by the time the third issue rolls around, it's come up that the Cassandra with the gift of prophecy who's part of the gang that we're following is, in fact, that Cassandra, but that's not information that's going to come from a caption box. This is a book that has too much to do.
Which brings us to the third, and probably the greatest, reason to pick this book up: It is way over the top.
This is a book that promises a giant baby wrestling a dinosaur and then not only delivers, but makes it the crucial scene of plot advancement for the entire first arc --- and that's after an entire issue where the team tries to get a cloud to have sex with a mountain.
No, really: That is the plot of the first arc, the story that Hester and McCrea use to introduce readers to not just the concept of the book, but the entire world that they're building. When they were confronted with the problem of having to introduce readers to the story they wanted to tell, the characters and their powers, and the very idea of magic and how it interacted with the people in this story, they chose to tell us about a drought that could only be stopped by convincing a rain cloud to have sex with a mountain. And it's great.
That's the big appeal to Mythic. Everything about it is taken to the next level of ridiculous - exactly the kind of ridiculous that you need to have in a world where all these legends about why cows aren't giving milk and how come there's a drought are 100% true --- and that includes the humor. It's a genuinely funny book, and those next-issue blurbs, including the one in #1 that promised "more than one character tries to sex a mountain" might be the funniest thing going in comics right now.
But there's a balance to it, too. McCrea's art has always been able to shift between cartoonish slapstick and brutally thrilling on a dime, and he gets an ample opportunity to show that off here. As always he manages to pull it off without ever letting those thrills get in the way of the laughs --- or letting the laughs get in the way of the thrills, for that matter.
It's that balance that makes it work, because everything it's doing is being done well. There's not a misstep or a piece that doesn't land --- it's funny, it's action-packed and it's big, on a scale that brings that working-class magic to the end of the world in a way that feels fresh. With three issues out, it's a book folks ought to be picking up.