Happy belated M.A.S.K. day! This update is a little late, but that does not mean it is not going to be a great one. If you have been following the world of M.A.S.K. then you know that the big buzz is about the new comic book series from IDW. Issue #1 just hit the stands so now we are going to take a look at it.
So first and foremost, let’s check out the covers. The first cover is by Tommy Lee Edwards. I confess, it is my favorite. This is the regular cover. I think it’s a very cool and subtle update of the classic M.A.S.K. look that clearly pays a ton of respect to the original designs. Cover number two is by Dan Schoening. Dan’s take is 100% original 80s M.A.S.K. I love the layout and all the vehicles represented. My only critique of this cover is that I wish we could the vehicles more clearly. The next cover is by Ken Christiansen. This one is another take on updating the look of the agents. I would have liked to see some vehicles on this cover, since they were always an integral part of the world. Lastly, is the blank cover. I love M.A.S.K., but it is hard to be as excited for this cover. On the other hand, if you plan on attending a convention having one of these hands will turn into a one of a kind collectible.
The first thing you realize, is that we are getting something never before told – a full origin for M.A.S.K. The original cartoon only gave a few odd hints and references (Matt’s dad found a magic cystal) and in the mini comics included with the original toys Matt had a younger brother named Andy who developed the mask technology. None of that here. M.A.S.K. is a paramilitary organization that is being created as a countermeasure to the Transformers. Remember, M.A.S.K. is part of the IDW world now and one piece in the puzzle of their new Revolution saga.
The first thing to ask is, does this make sense? M.A.S.K. having government backing, even if it’s black ops, makes a lot of sense. Between the necessary finances and the highly sophisticated technology they utilize, not having M.A.S.K. originate this way would almost be ludicrous. Brandon Easton, the writer of the series (who I had the pleasure of meeting on release day), makes some really great choices here. Giving M.A.S.K. an origin is something that is good storytelling and caters to the fans who have been dying for ‘the beginning’ for years.
Brandon continues to do an incredible job weaving the beginnings of M.A.S.K. together while also incorporating the rest of the Revolution universe into it. For those not familiar with GI Joe, you might have missed the early reference. Mayhem brings in Dr. Mindbender, a member of Cobra, to conduct psychological tests and programs designed to train the agents specifically to Mayhem’s desire. This integration feels effortless. Mindbender’s appearance is brief and completely logical.
The dialogue in the book is also well done. Brandon is able to pack in a lot of moments that give people new to M.A.S.K. a clear understanding of who the different people really are. The role of mentor/student between Mayhem and Trakker also setup for a really strong enmity down the line. Being betrayed by a man who taught you is a strong motivation to fight, which I am sure we will see in the coming issues.
The biggest area that left me wanting was the technology itself. Issue one does not really give any explanation into the development or origin of the masks or the vehicles. Given how much was packed into the first issue, this does not appear to be an oversight, rather a conscious choice. Clearly, choosing to first focus on the people was important in the construction of the story, a choice I love. All that being said, I cannot wait to explore the origins of the masks in the coming issues. With the option to draw from elements of other Revolution titles, I hope that we will be pleasantly surprised.
Moving right along. In a comic book a good story is critical, but just as important is strong artwork. To compliment the writing of Brandon Easton, we have the artwork of Tony Vargas and colors from Jordi Escuin
It is difficult to argue whether or not art is ‘good’, but I will do my best.
For a comic like M.A.S.K., you have all the challenges of a typical comic book and the additional pressure to pay respect to the original material. Vargas really seems to have keyed into that. By retaining some of the more memorable aspects of characters and keeping them closer to the source, while pushing other minor aspects into a bit more modern style, he brings characters up to date while still making them instantly recognizable. The mirrored sunglasses for Sly and the crimson hair of Vanessa are just two such instances.
As you all know by now, this is the origin story. And so, we can’t expect too much of the fully developed M.A.S.K. agents. The most we get is a few teasing shots. But those teases sure are exciting. Of all of them, the final panel of the book does it the best. We get to see all four of the M.A.S.K. agents suited in profile. When news of the new comic first broke people were speculating on how true to the original series it would be. Looking at this panel alone, those worries can be laid too rest. Tony manages to make the agents look way more modern and injects that military style that the book presents but somehow also retains all of the important parts of the original. The easiest thing to notice of course, is that the agents have the same color scheme; Matt wearing red and grey, Julio in purple and green, etc. But it’s more than that, the shapes and forms of the masks really show their 80s influence. I think Mr. Vargas really knows his audience and hits it out of the park.
Last, but certainly not least, I want to take a moment to look at the coloring work. It could have been an easy choice – and probably a mistake – to go with a dark and gritty palette for this book. With all of the updates and military flavor being added it might seem like the more logical choice. However, that is not the case. I can only speculate that Jordi Escuin was trying to capture that vibrant coloration of the 80s cartoon when he went to work. Of all the many pages, I think the panel below really shows off why this was a great choice.
It would be a big let down if ThunderHawk was a dull dark red. The book has a great use of shadows and tones for those darker moments, but when it’s time for things to pop, they do.
On almost every single point of interest, I think Revolution M.A.S.K. is off to an amazing start. A combination of strong storytelling, memorable characters and vibrant art make it everything a M.A.S.K. fan could have wanted after thirty years of waiting. At this point, the only thing I can say is that I am crossing my fingers that issue two will introduce the vehicles and provide us some background on the technology that powers the masks.
For those who want to have an easier time checking out the covers to this book, they have also been added to the Comics area. Unlike the older books, we will not be providing the full issue. If you are a M.A.S.K. fan please do your best to support the work of these creators. The book can be found in most local comic book shops or here, in the IDW Store.
Also, if you follow the Boulder-Hill.net Facebook page (you really should), then you know that there will be a contest coming soon where you can win a copy of Revolution M.A.S.K. #1, signed by Brandon Easton.