January 19, 2016

Comics I've Read: Dynamite's MASKS 2

You know, it seems like only yesterday I was declaring Dynamite's first Masks series"a near-perfect pulp comic." Of course, as it progressed Masks became rather disappointing, moving from strength to weakness. So I was prepared to see Cullen Bunn's work on Masks 2 in a similar light - a great start followed by a decline into weakness. But Bunn's work on Masks 2 pleasantly surprised me....

....as I have never been as immediately dissatisfied with a comic as Dynamite's Masks 2.

I am grateful that I "binge read" the individual copies all at once, because I might have given up with the first issue. Masks 2 basically throws a series of heroes into a situation, and then as things progress...

Well, I'm going to stop here, because I'm throwing in spoilers a-plenty. But I'm going to be vague - not out of some sense of obligation, but because if I told you all of the details, you would think I was putting you on.

Masks 2 quickly becomes a story about time travel. Seriously. And the inventor of time travel....well, you might think it would be a public domain science fiction pulp hero. Or some reference to H.G. Wells. Or even a made-up or revived hero....that would make sense. But who invents time travel?

A two-gun avenger who casually mentions that he does this on a regular basis

No, I did not make that up. I'm not having you on. That was a key plot point in Masks 2.

From there, it turned into the kind of fannish mis-mash that reads like badly written Doctor Who fan fiction. (And I should know - I've written Doctor Who fan fiction. No, seriously, I have). And then it becomes the obligatory "alternate-takes-of-classic-characters", which leads to...

The Black Bat becoming the Black Bats, a masked avenger in a New York Yankees Uniform.

No, I'm serious. This isn't a joke. And the series ends with the classic "reset button" trope.

The only redeeming quality is Edam Casallos' art - gritty, moody, with a great sense of composition. But it's sadly wasted on such a weak, meandering script that never manages to tell a convincing story, and Masks 2 feels more like an effort to keep key licenses than an effort to tell a cohesive tale.

(And we all know what less-than-fantastic results happen when you do something in order to keep a license...)

Masks 2 does the same thing wrong that Marvel's Squadron Supreme does right; take familiar tropes and characters and tell a story about them. But while
Squadron Supreme provides an excellent window into its characters (as well as provide a really strong story context), Dynamite's Masks 2 is an absolute waste of time. You may wish to avoid the trade collection when it comes out.

Or more importantly, find some of the original characters via reprints and the Digital Comics Museum. It will be a better use of your time, and more importantly - a much better introduction to many of these characters via Masks 2.

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