Masks is a comic I have been waiting for for some time for without fully realizing it. Dynamite Entertainment has been slowly building it’s library of licensed properties for several years now with an emphasis towards a lot of pulp era characters (many of whom also have long histories in the comicbook medium as well). While I freely admit to not reading many of these books due to finances and/or personal tastes, I do like the fact that they are being published and seem to be doing well. Recently, Dynamite has been taking steps to bring several of their licensed characters together in different series (we got to see the Lone Ranger avenging Zorro’s death in one, and Vampirella, Red Sonja, Herbert West, and Ash Williams team up in another). Now, we have the pulp heroes uniting in Masks.
Masks features several pulp heroes uniting (along with some public domain comic heroes) as a team for the very first time. Featured characters include The Shadow, The Spider, The Green Hornet & Kato, Zorro (his legacy carries on), and several others to be seen in upcoming issues. The storyline has its roots in an actual Spider pulp story that concerned itself with issues that are as relevant today as they were in the time it was originally conceived. (The comic itself contains an ad for the original Spider story being made available again at fighttheempirestate.com)
The writer of Masks, Chris Roberson, has thus far managed to seamlessly blend the heroes into a cohesive world while managing to keep the various characters unique and distinctive. You don’t have to know all their various backstories and minutia to tell them apart. This is not always an easy task, especially in a time when more and more characters are becoming homogenous. The Spider (who’s history sparked the original storyline) does get a bit of short shrift in the first issue, but I imagine he will get more screen time in future issues.
Alex Ross not only does cover duty, but also present his first interior work in several years, and he is inspired here. Ross’ page layouts are at the most dynamic they’ve ever been. His colors have a vibrancy to them I don’t remember seeing in his older work. His fondness for the era is obvious and his work here makes he wish he was handling the entire series and not just the introductory issue. His fondness for Easter Eggs is alive, too. One of the minor villains is based on old horror film actor Rondo Hatton (Hatton, who suffered from acromegaly, seems to be a favorite among comic artists. This is at least the third character in comics based on him by my count).
Overall, Masks does an excellent job of bringing across the excitement in seeing several heroes united against a common foe. An excitement that’s been sorely lacking in the crossover saturated event fatigued comic market of late. Well done. Now if they’ll just throw in a reference to the Reid family connection, I’ll be completely happy. . .