Friday, January 8, 2010

PRYDE & WISDOM #1- #3, September - November 1996

Mystery School

Credits: Warren Ellis (writer), Terry Dodson (penciler), Karl Story (inker), Ariane Lenshoek & Malibu (colors), Richard Starkings & Comicraft (letters)

Warren Ellis’ run on Excalibur occasionally turned into a Pryde and Wisdom team-up book, so it’s fitting that this mini ran during his final days on the series. The story has Kitty Pryde and Pete Wisdom searching for a mutant serial killer who’s targeting ministers and priests. They’re brought into the case by Mr. Jardine, one of Wisdom’s friends who’s worried about his daughter, a photojournalist who is also investigating the case. The duo gets into contact with the Mystery School, the police department that investigates unusual deaths. The victims’ bodies have strange markings, which Wisdom believes only his family could identify. Throughout the story, men in black try to kill Pryde and Wisdom, providing the standard action sequences. Ellis leaves a lot of room in the story for the lead characters to interact, playing up the “good girl/bad boy” relationship while moving the plot along and throwing in some action. The characters have enough personality to make this work, and Terry Dodson delivers his usual high-quality artwork.

Mystery Walk

Credits: Warren Ellis (writer), Terry Dodson & Aaron Lopresti (pencilers), Simmons, Pinnock, Lopresti , & Martin (inkers), Ariane Lenshoek & Malibu (colors), Richard Starkings & Comicraft (letters)

The issue opens with the introduction of Harold Wisdom, Pete Wisdom’s father. He’s a deranged, paranoid old man who’s played for comic relief. Ellis writes British, old, and crazy very well, so it is pretty funny. Harold suggests they contact Pete’s sister if they want to know what the markings on the bodies mean. After leaving his father’s house, Wisdom has one of his spontaneous “softer” moments and tells Kitty about his mother’s death (he feels guilty because she was waiting by the window for him to visit, which he had no plans of doing, when a spree killer suddenly shot her).

After returning to their hotel, Pryde and Wisdom fight off more attackers, then make out on the couch. Wisdom’s sister, Romany, abruptly enters. They escort her to the Mystery School, where she uses her occult knowledge to converse with one of the victims. After reading the symbol on his body, she discerns that the killer believes himself to be Cain, humanity’s first murderer. When Wisdom casually mentions John Gideon, an agent he briefly met last issue, the Mystery School staff suddenly races to a nearby pub in a panic. There, a woman pulls a gun on them. Ellis is doing a good job of building the mystery, dropping in just enough vague clues and cutaway scenes without making them an annoyance. Even if you’re not interested in trying to piece together the pieces of the mystery, the main story has enough humor and action to keep things entertaining.

Mystery Train

Credits: Warren Ellis (writer), Terry Dodson & Aaron Lopresti (pencilers), Simmons, Pinnock, Lopresti , Martin, & Martin (inkers), Ariane Lenshoek & Malibu (colors), Richard Starkings & Comicraft (letters)

The armed woman in the pub is never named, but she identifies herself as Britain’s answer to Charles Xavier. She wants mutants to keep a low profile in Britain for their own protection (she also confesses to sending people to kill Pryde and Wisdom in the previous issues to keep them off the case), and wants to be the one to take down the mutant serial killer. A conversation between her and the Mystery School police reveals that the killer is John Gideon. Gideon is an unhinged Mystery School agent who called in to work earlier from the pub, bragging that he met a woman. After Kitty knocks out the Xavier wannabe, everyone travels to Gideon’s home. There, they discover Mr. Jardine’s daughter, Amanda, who placed herself as bait in the pub. Harold Wisdom has also arrived, after deducing the killer’s identity. Gideon uses his powers on Harold, fossilizing his left arm. Kitty chases Gideon into the subway (or “tube” as it’s apparently called), which of course leads to a train collision. Gideon refuses Kitty’s help and apparently dies in the crash. Later, Wisdom has a tense goodbye with his family members and threatens to kill Kitty for suggesting he meet her family.

Intercut with the serial killer storyline are more revelations about Pete Wisdom’s family. Just to drive the point home that Wisdom is secretly a softie, it’s revealed that he refused to see his mother earlier because she told him she never loved him, and that he’s been secretly paying his father’s rent for years. When Gideon threatens Wisdom’s father, he of course steps up to the plate and defends the man he doesn’t like very much. I don’t mind the occasional glimpses of humanity, but I do think revealing that he disliked his mother because she openly hated him is a little much. That virtually absolves him for not visiting her the day she waited by the window, making it a less significant part of his backstory. I also wonder what the point of “Britain’s Xavier” was supposed to be, outside of serving as a throwaway explanation for most of the earlier action sequences. It seems like Ellis had plans for her (for no real reason, he throws in that she’s an alchemist who's older than she seems), but her appearance is so rushed it’s hard to get a feel for the character. Aside from those minor complaints, this is a fun series that’s on the level with Ellis’ best Excalibur issues. Actually, because it’s only three issues long, the pace moves along faster and the gratuitous padding that occasionally made its way into Excalibur is absent. The basic idea of a serial killer who thinks he’s Cain, writing an apology letter to God on dead bodies, is a great starting point, and Ellis manages to use it as a nice introduction for the Wisdom family.


wwk5d said...

"After returning to their hotel, Pryde and Wisdom fight off more attackers, then make out on the couch."

Hey, whatever gets them in the mood...

P.C. Bernard said...

And you didn't mention Constance Johanssen, the trenchcoat wearing chain smoking occult detective who has an habit of getting her friends killed.

Matt said...

For some reason, I find the blurb "FINAL INTRIGUING ISSUE!" very funny.

ray swift said...

I think the killer's identity and personality is the weak link of an all around good mini-series. Aside from his cool back-story for the killing, he seems like a very avarage and boring person, even while they fight him. We should at least see some of his darker side in action for a few panels.

Also, it's good that this mini-series is only 3 chapter. I like both characters in Excalibur but I think that even though Ellis is a great writer and write them perfectly and with great humor, they are too generic to build a solo-series.

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