Story: Cullen Bunn
Art: Eman Casallos
What They Say:
The Shadow. The Green Hornet and Kato. Black Terror. These are just a few masked vigilantes drawn into a mystery that spans the decades – a plot that threatens our society again and again. With the devastating power to kill thousands of people in a matter of seconds, the Red Death is a villain who may be impossible to stop. It will take more than a dozen masked heroes from three different time periods to stop this madwoman from bringing the world to its knees!
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
When it comes to the pulp era properties, I continue to find myself wary of them as I have a hard time getting into them outside of a novel story design. TV shows, movies and comics have largely come across as weak and not really capturing the feel of them in a way that feels compelling in a modern day approach. With the new Masks series, the second such one, we’re set for eight issues that brings together a range of characters in late 1937 to deal with a new threat that, according to the Green Llama, will cause problems for years to come. Showing the group assembled a look at the future and the variety of heroes that will exist then, including a female Kato, it makes it clear that there will be evil for quite some time into the future. And that’s a hard thing for a group as intense as this to really accept.
With eight issues to tell the tale, it’s no surprise that things move at a slower pace in a sense here at the start. Acclimating readers to the characters is key and we get that with an initial action that has the Shadow, Green Hornet and Kato dealing with some skull mask wearing criminals that have absconded with some really bad gas cannisters that could cause an immense amount of death. The first half of the book roughly works through the chase sequence and the fun of it all in a way, before it gets more dangerous with the arrival of the Black Terror to put it to a real close. His intense nature makes the Shadow feel like a jaywalker with how they come across, and even more so with the arrival of other people of the era in the form of the Spider, Green Llama and Lady Satan. It’s an interesting mix of characters that gets involved in events at this point.
With a growing understanding of the threat of the cannisters themselves, we also get a look as previously mentioned from Green Llama about the future, which certainly is fun to watch just to see how they all react, as well as seeing the future versions of themselves. What they do learn though is that there’s a grand new player in the mix going by the moniker of the Red Death, and they’re hosting a little costume party that they can make their way to. It’s a proper old school kind of introduction to a new villain amid the crooked of the city and others, and the final page here certainly sets the tone in a fantastic way with wha Red Death represents. While the book as a whole flows and moves well, it’s that last page that sells me on checking out more with what this character may represent as an overall storyline villain for this amassed crew of very different and difficult characters to work with.
The second Masks series kicks off with a bit of familiarity since these folks have worked together in the previous crossover series, so there’s not a lot of time spent on that kind of setup silliness that we can do without. The banter and interactions between the various personalities is interesting, but again it’s hard to get something really entertaining since so many of them are just grim and intense, The action is fun, the dialogue hits the right notes with the characters and time and we get the start of a potentially interesting story that’s working off familiar riffs for the moment. But the Red Death character is what has me interested in seeing if it can really work, as a compelling villain can make the story exciting. What we get here is a solid start that even manages to get me interested in it, which is hard as I struggle to find a lot to like with the pulp heroes in general in comic book form. But this potentially expansive maxiseries has a lot of possibility and definitely a lot of solid style thanks to the artwork. I’m cautiously optimistic, which I never thought I’d be after the last couple of years of mild pulp hero comics reading.
Age Rating: 13+
Released By: Dynamite Entertainment
Release Date: April 8th, 2015