Sandman Mystery Theatre
#4: The Scorpion

by Matt Wagner,
Steven T. Seagle, Guy Davis
(Vertigo, 2006)

A new masked villain called the Scorpion is in Manhattan, working his way through a set of privileged and wealthy investors with a poisoned bullwhip as his trademark murder weapon. The police can't catch him, but the Sandman believes he can do better.

This modern reinvention of the pre-World War II hero Sandman continues to get better as it goes. Now up to issues 17-20 (of its too-brief, 70-issue run), Sandman Mystery Theatre is less about crimefighting and dramatic costumed battles than it is about personalities and atmosphere. Wesley Dodds, the man behind the Sandman's mask, is not your typical hero; he's not too young, he's not too athletic, he has no powers and he never wears spandex. In fact, if he wasn't wearing a gas mask and carrying a strange-looking gun, he probably wouldn't attract much attention on the streets. But Dodds is clever, resolute and resourceful, and he's determined to strike back against crime.

While Dodds' butler, Humphries, has yet to make much of a mark on the book, Dodds' growing romance with Dian Belmont is a finely nuanced piece of writing. Dian is somewhat flighty and impulsive, and she's certainly no saint, but she's also compassionate, curious and driven by a strong conscience that sees past many of the strict social and racial boundaries of the time.

Writers Matt Wagner and Steven T. Seagle, here teamed with artist Guy Davis, obviously have a handle on this character, making Sandman Mystery Theatre an excellent choice for discriminating readers.

by Tom Knapp
24 February 2007

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