08 March 2011

Faster than a DC Bullet: Sandman Mystery Theatre, Part IX: The Mist and The Phantom of the Fair

Comic trade paperback, 200 pages
Published 2009 (contents: 1996)

Borrowed from the library
Read March 2011
Sandman Mystery Theatre: The Mist and The Phantom of the Fair

Writers: Matt Wagner, Steven T. Seagle
Artist: Guy Davis
Colorist: David Hornung
Letterer: John Costanza

The other DC characters come thick and fast in this volume, which features Ted Knight (the future Starman), the Mist (a future Starman villain), Jim Corrigan (the future Spectre), and the Crimson Avenger, not to mention a passing reference to the Flash himself. I don't know if Sandman Mystery Theatre was in trouble or what, but it's a little jarring in what had been a fairly self-contained series. Wagner and Seagle work most of them in just fine, though; Knight, the Mist, and Corrigan don't have their powers yet, while the Crimson Avenger doesn't have any at all. (Oddly, he's the most disconcerting-- with his flamboyant posturing and public presence, he's a very different kind of superhero to the Sandman.)

Both stores in this volume are good but disjointed. "The Mist" suffers from the same problem as "The Hourman," in that the tale of the other characters is often more interesting than Wesley's; I loved the rise and fall of the villainous scientist known as the Mist. Meanwhile, Wesley is rebuilding his relationship with Dian and investigating a series of mysterious crimes, but he only finds the Mist by accident. Plus there's just too many shady characters to keep track of. It's not a satisfying mystery, but I still enjoyed reading it.

"The Phantom of the Fair" takes the Sandman back to where he began in the Golden Age-- the New York World's Fair-- and it's a neat story, especially in how it shows Wesley confronting his own homophobia. The explanation for it is a bit too pat, though: he saw a friend of his forced to give a man oral sex when they were children. The roots of such prejudice are much less easily traced and destroyed than that. I did like all the ruminations on utopia in this story. This story isn't really a mystery as such, though; Lieutenant Burke does more work on the case than Wesley again. (Though it's one of the most enjoyable Burke stories in Sandman Mystery Theatre so far. I love it when Burke is allowed to be an all-out asshole.) So again, The Mist and The Phantom of the Fair is a mixed bag; Wagner and Seagle seem to have a difficult job balancing the personal plots and the mystery plots without compromising the latter.

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