April 23, 2015

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Masks 2 #1 by Cullen Bunn, Eman Casallos, and Adriano Augusto


Written by Cullen Bunn
Line Art by Eman Casallos
Color Art by Adriano Augusto
Published by Dynamite Entertainment

The Shadow, working in an uneasy alliance with the Green Hornet and Kato, take on a batch of criminals who hold a deadly device, but it's only the tip of the iceberg as they discover that a new villain is out to turn Edgar Allan Poe into true crime in this first issue of a new pulp hero crossover from Dynamite that's off to a great start.

"And there came a day, a day unlike any other, when Earth's mightiest heroes and heroines found themselves united against a common threat. On that day..." Well, you know the rest, don't you? It's no secret that comic book fans love team books. From the Invaders and Justice Society back in World War 2 to even the movie universes being steered into shared universes (for better or worse), there's just so much sheer joy as a fan to see your favorite characters working together.

With control of a ton of pulp characters, Dynamite is happy to take advantage of this, having done it already with the first Masks mini-series (written by Chris Roberson with art by Dennis Calero) and giving Gail Simone the keys to a woman-centric character crossover coming up soon, a literary crossover from Ron Marz and Walter Geovani, Prophecy, and others.

While it's a tough act to follow Roberson, they did a great job picking Cullen Bunn, who understands how to write single-issue comics, a nearly lost art in the age of the trade. Bunn wastes no time trying to introduce the characters to the reader, instead dropping right into a battle with the Shadow, who uses his signature line right on page two, practically leaping out of the panel thanks to the great linework of Eman Cassalos and coloring of Adriano Augusto. In a great way to show off character differences, while the Shadow is, well, steeped in darkness even when there's external lighting, the Green Hornet is shown as a figure of light piercing the veil of crime. When the trio are fighting, their styles also show clear differences. While Cranston kills at a clip that would make the Punisher blush and dives into the fight with reckless abandon, Green Hornet and Kato fight to preserve life, even that of criminals. We get some of this in Bunn's dialogue, but the bulk of that difference is show in the art, and it's great to see.




There's a ton of fighting in the issue, as the trio are joined by other pulp-era heroes around the midpoint, and while a battle-heavy book can sometimes sag a bit, Bunn varies how the battle proceeds and Cassallos keeps it varied by ensuring that a) we can tell who is fighting and b) keeps the panels moving fluidly across the action. You'd be surprised how often that's ignored, leaving us with muddled, dark work or a bunch of posing people standing instead of acting. Once we reach the end of this issue, and the Shadow and the Green Hornet--who come to a costume ball dressed as themselves, natch--it's clear they're quite likely in over their heads. (It's also a great nod to the source material for the villain's name, but you'll have to read the issue to get the reference, or read someone else's review. I'm not telling.)

Along the way, there's plenty of hints that this is going to be large scale, and not just the number of caped characters. Once again, these heroes of the pre-war era are faced with the idea that heroics and legacies are being forged. It's not really a new idea, but I love how Bunn makes the Shadow incredulous that his work is ultimately meaningless, because crime does not end. It's such a nice touch, and I hope it's followed up on. It's also a nice nod to the various ways in which Dynamite has used these characters.

I had a lot of fun reading this first issue, and while it won't be to everyone's taste, if you like the old radio series or pulp stories, make sure you check this one out. It's a large crossover, but it's also self-contained within its own issues, and doesn't requite having read any of the other books being published in this part of the Dynamite world. Bunn is using these characters to their strengths, not to just fit his story, and the art is really outstanding, making this a comic I'd recommend easily to team-up fans to put on their pull lists.