Since the very beginning of humanity, we have struggled between belief and skepticism. Do we explain thunder as the stomping around of a magical being in the sky or as a natural process involving the sudden increase in pressure and temperature caused by lightning? The more sophisticated humans have become at measuring their surroundings, the more we have leaned towards science as a way to explain the unexplainable. Where we once depended on stories about gods, we increasingly rely on science for the answers. But what if we were wrong? What if science is just “an opiate for the masses” that lets us feel like we can explain all the crazy things that life throws at us? What if it’s really magic that makes the world go round? These questions are the backbone of the recent Image Comics series Mythic, written by Phil Hester and illustrated by John McCrea. Mythic places a team of supernatural agents against the forces of order, fighting to keep humanity sane, ignorant and safe from that which aims to destroy them.
The story begins with Nate Jayadarma, a cell phone salesman, having about the worst day possible. While trying to close the store, a very strange and insistent customer forces Nate to stay late to look at a broken phone and ends up wanting a whole lot more than that. Forced to defend himself, Nate finds that he’s got a bit more natural fighting talent than might be expected for a cell phone salesman and the end result is an invitation to join the Mythic Lore squad, an international supernatural organization which recruits unique individuals to protect humanity from the magical reality which it has chosen to ignore. Nate is forced to recognize that far from science ruling reality, magic is behind it all. This becomes abundantly clear when a drought is revealed to be caused by a lover’s spat between a mountain spirit and a stormcloud spirit rather than any jet stream peculiarity. Unfortunately for Mythic and its newest recruit, someone doesn’t particularly appreciate Mythic’s intervention in the supernatural and aims to wipe them out. It’s up to Nate, the Apache shaman Waterson, the immortal Greek prophetess Cassandra, a two-eyed Cyclops (it’s a birth defect) and Asha, simultaneously the leader of Mythic and a giant baby god, to suss out their enemies and prevent them from bringing about Ragnarok and the end of humanity.
Mythic has been described as a “working class supernatural” and to a large extent, this is true. Nate is just a normal dude who’s had reality turned upside down and learned that maybe he has a more important role than just cell phone salesman to fulfill. All of the other characters have some supernatural talent to one degree or another but none of them are perfect gods, they’re each flawed (often humorously so) individuals who work together because they believe in a cause bigger than themselves. It’s almost like a mix of League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and Fables but WAY more crass and with a fairly dark sense of humor. All in all, it’s a bit of an odd duck. The plot is a bit haphazard and the motivations of the villains are confusing at best until the very end of the story and even then it still seems a bit off. At no point does Hester do any work in explaining how it could be that science is a complete fiction devised by humans to explain away the magic that they can’t otherwise control. Hester sets this up as fact and then just expects the reader to follow along. Luckily for him, he has pretty decent characterization for the main characters and the humor was spot on. I found myself more amused than annoyed with the stranger events in the story thanks to the quips and over the top silliness of some of the character interactions. Mythic doesn’t shy away from the crass or the gross so if you’re faint of heart or averse to cursing, this isn’t the story for you. McCrea’s art isn’t what I’d call beautiful but it suits the story well. Unlike with Fables, these monsters aren’t gorgeous, fantastical creations. They’re strange, sometimes horrifying and alien creatures that are as likely to be messed up as they are to be fascinating. The colors by Michael Spicer are particularly good, bringing all the roughness and power of McCrea’s linework to life.
Mythic is one of those strangely interesting stories that I struggle to categorize as I’m reading and I’m left at the end wondering what to think. I found elements of the plot and the vague nature of the villains to be dissatisfying but spent a large amount of my time reading chuckling over the dark, very dry sense of humor and the kind of ugly charm of the monsters and the supernatural creatures to be more compelling than I would expect. Overall, if you’re drawn to things with a darker, more crass side to them, I’d certainly recommend it. It won’t be the best graphic novel series you pick up this year but it’s a fun little ride that has the potential to develop into something more if the series continues.