Thursday, 2 July 2015

Masks, Volume 1 Review (Chris Roberson, Alex Ross)


Long-forgotten Golden Age “superheroes” remind you why they were forgotten in the first place in Masks! When the Justice party, a thinly veiled facsimile of the Nazis, somehow takes power in America, it’s up to these heroes to battle them in the streets, miraculously never getting shot despite fighting hand-to-hand most of the time and many of them not possessing any powers to protect them! Also, they’re all based in one city but they’re fighting for the whole of America, or something! 

Ok, I understand the corny black and white nature of the plot is a reflection of the simplistic stories these characters appeared in back in the ‘30s and ‘40s. So the fact that the Justice party have leather-clad stormtroopers calling themselves The Black Legion and have concentration camps set up, and so on is deliberate shorthand to say these are the worst of the worst. But they never come off as a convincing threat whose plans stand a chance - they’re basically just targets for our heroes to punch/shoot and not feel bad about because they’re fascist scum.

Who are our heroes? Green Hornet and Kato, The Shadow, The Spider, The Black Terror, Zorro, Black Bat, Miss Fury, and The Green Lama. Most people are probably aware of Green Hornet and Kato thanks to Seth Rogen’s terrible movie a few years ago, and Zorro’s sorta famous too from those Antonio Banderas flicks, but the others? I mean, Green Lama - what the fuck!? He’s just a guy in a green hood by the way, he’s not a real lama - I know, I was disappointed too! 

Writer Chris Roberson assumes the reader’s familiar with these guys so there’s no real backstory to any of them, they just show up on the page, announce their name, punch some bad guys, and they’re in this vigilante group. No clue what their powers are either but then most of them don’t have any so I guess that’s alright. They still never come off as rounded characters - they’re as one-dimensional as the baddies they’re punching. 

And that’s really the story of Masks: mysterious heroes show up, beat the villains, and then eventually gang up to fight the Big Bad at the end. About as complex and layered as The Very Hungry Caterpillar. The Big Bad is ridiculous too: The Clock. Why’s he called the clock? Does he have time-related powers? Nope. Does the name have anything to do with his former profession? Nope. How about what he does now? Nope. Bonkers. You may as well call him The Desk or The Turquoise Sieve for all the logic of his other name! 

I normally don’t go for Alex Ross’ stiff art style but the first issue, which is the only one he draws, looked really great. Maybe non-powered street-level characters in dark clothes is Ross’ niche? Dennis Calero draws the rest of the book with Ross on art direction. It looks fine but it’s nothing like Ross’ painted style. 

Maybe if you go for this nostalgic brand of hero comic, you’ll like Masks but for most contemporary superhero comics readers, or any comics fans looking for a good read, this is an easy miss.

Masks, Volume 1

2 comments:

  1. Having read a couple of issues of some of the other Dynamite golden age reboots, this all sounds familiar. I don't know whose idea was behind this no concept travesty, but wow, talk about a failure. The one issue of Black Terror I picked up years ago was so boring and uninspired that I couldn't even finish it. In all seriousness I wonder what Dynamite was thinking was supposed to happen with these characters when the writing has been so poor? Were they supposed to sell merely because Alex Ross was doing the covers? I would have really enjoyed seeing these characters have some new life, but Dynamite has shown themselves to be clueless with these properties.

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  2. Having read a couple of issues of some of the other Dynamite golden age reboots, this all sounds familiar. I don't know whose idea was behind this no concept travesty, but wow, talk about a failure. The one issue of Black Terror I picked up years ago was so boring and uninspired that I couldn't even finish it. In all seriousness I wonder what Dynamite was thinking was supposed to happen with these characters when the writing has been so poor? Were they supposed to sell merely because Alex Ross was doing the covers? I would have really enjoyed seeing these characters have some new life, but Dynamite has shown themselves to be clueless with these properties.

    ReplyDelete