There have been mixed reviews on Dynamite’s old school trio of do-gooders. Some love The Spider, The Green Hornet and The Shadow, some don’t. Regardless of your slant, I urge you to step into Masks #1 with an open mind. This is classic comic book storytelling at it’s absolute finest. Writer Chris Roberson weaves all three of these heroes into a story filled with political corruption and the decay of justice. It’s the kind of black and white, good and evil plots that get lost in this modern world of grey storytelling.
Green Hornet and Kato have stepped slightly out of their jurisdiction in order to track down a mob boss named Rothko. It’s the 1940s in New York City and, while it seems that a new age of law and order has arrived, there are more sinister things afoot. During their interrogation of this mob underling, Hornet and Kato are faced with The Shadow and his super powered use of darkness. Speaking cryptically, The Shadow tells Hornet to go to Club Cobalt for the answers he seeks.
Essentially, New York going to hell in a handbasket. The new mayor has positioned a Justice Party to help dispense law and order in the city. Problem is, that entire organization is made up of former criminals and corrupt politicians, including Boss Rothko. The issue comes to a head when crooked police begin arresting the poor for not paying a “poor tax.” As the situation becomes violent, The Shadow, Kato and The Hornet leap into action. Just as suddenly, The Spider appears and, though now they are four, this tribe of justice seekers seem hopelessly outnumbered.
Roberson does a masterful job of setting the scene and executing a Golden Age story without it seeming nostalgic. The corruption is real, even touching on racism and bigotry. The principle behind Roberson’s idea is what is law and what is justice. Fueling that conflict is the police on the side of law vs. our heroes on the side of justice. It was also smart for Roberson to introduce The Spider suddenly, it ramps up the anticipation of issue #2.
I was a little apprehensive about the art since I’m not a huge fan of Alex Ross. Yes his stuff is beautiful, but it always felt stagnant, as though the characters in his panels were bolted to the ground and unable to move. Such is not the case with Masks. Ross’ work compliments the Golden Age style of the story by keeping a classic feel painted within the very modern Alex Ross look. Ross also has a lot of movement here, from the opening rooftop battle to the final moments against the cops, Ross keep Masks alive with action.
Masks is a great book. The kind of comic book storytelling I wish we saw more of.
(4.5 Story, 4 Art)