Publisher: Marvel, under the Crossgen imprint
Writer: G. Willow Wilson
Pencils: David López
Inks: Álvaro López
Colors: Nathan Fairbarn
Cover: Amanda Conner and Paul Mounts
Recommended Audience: People who like a little Disney in their stories; people who want more all-ages books from the Big 2.
As first issues go, Mystic #1 is almost perfect. In introduced its might-as-well-be-all-new characters and its world with incredible economy, and boatloads of charm. I was hooked—totally ready to dive into the continuing adventures of Giselle and Genevieve, as Giselle is given the life Genevieve wanted for herself. It’s a strong story, and one that, had it not been strangled by the limits imposed by a four-issue mini, would have been fantastic. As it is, it feels like a very nice-looking model home—it’ll be great if and when it becomes an actual house, but it isn’t.
The problems start with the very first page of issue #2, in which we see Genevieve getting thrown out of the palace for causing a stir, some time after issue #1’s cliffhanger. We have no idea what happened between scenes. Did Genevieve and Giselle speak? Did Giselle try to keep the palace guard from kicking her best friend away? We’re not told, which is supremely unfortunate, since it’s a vital part of the story, and its absence removes a lot of the nuance from the tale. Yes, the story demands that a wedge drive both of the girls apart and place them on opposite sides, and the structure demands that it occurs sooner rather than later; however, given what we learn of the girls in the first issue, I’m hard-pressed to see how Giselle’s selection alone is enough to do the trick, mostly because I m unconvinced that a) Giselle wouldn’t have successfully done her damnedest to keep Genevieve from being kicked out and b) that Genevieve wouldn’t have been happy for Giselle, despite her disappointment. While Giselle’s selection would have been a complication, it shouldn’t have been the straw to break the camel’s back. As it is, it feels forced and makes both girls feel more unlikeable than they’d been last issue.
After the two protagonists separate, the book spends the bulk of its time with Giselle, as she learns to adapt to her new status quo. It’s very much Harry Potter with large dollops of Mean Girls, and while the framework for an excellent story is definitively there, it’s not all it could be because the various players are not allowed to go break out of their basic archetypes. There’s Felice, the Queen Bee, who delights in making Giselle’s experience a living hell because of her origins. There’s Jolie and Heloise, her minions, who don’t even get to steal any scenes. There’s Ondine, the one that’s overweight and not traditionally pretty and whose only goal appears to be to help Giselle succeed. Finally, there’s Gerard, The Love Interest, who’s pretty and dumb and gets a heroic moment cause That’s The Way The Story Goes. While what we do get to see is perfectly fine, and there are bits and pieces that hint at greater depths—Felice’s ambitions, for example, lie in the political realm rather than the social one—like most of the book, there’s no time to develop it.
Genevieve’s side of things fares no better. She gets only one supporting character, Philippe, the leader of protesters and The One Who Claims to Fight for the People and Really Can’t Wait to Get Some Executions Going, and a situation than all in all needed to be more fleshed out in order to have impact. While we get a pretty clear idea of what their beef is—they claim that the nobles’ monopoly on fuel collection has led to massive income inequality–we really don’t get to see how valid their claims are, or how popular the movement actually is.
Fortunately, the book is accompanied by some stellar art. I raved about López, López, and Fairbairn in my last review, and everything I said then applies here. It is fantastic in all respects, and makes the world of Verne and its inhabitants shine.
When I read the first issue, I was elated. Finally, a story about friendship between girls on mainstream comics, I thought. And so well told. I was then disappointed to find out that it didn’t get the chance to be that. That said, I would still very much like to see this as an ongoing series, to see how G. Willow Wilson fares when she’s not constrained by the format and is allowed to do some more throughout world building—despite the disappointing pilot episode, there’s still a lot of potential for greatness here. I hope other people agree.