I have previously raved about how awesome I thought the series Masks was with the release of #1 and #2. The pairing of Chris Roberson writing and Alex Ross delivering his wonderfully painted artwork was enthralling. This last week issue #3 came out and, although good, I do feel somewhat disappointed.
When dealing with a miniseries, we have a finite number of issues to work with. I would expect that a creative team would be brought on board to deliver a consistent story from point A to point B. The first 2 issues were amazing and I was looking forward to the rest of the series – but this issue deliver a surprising… well, surprise. Alex Ross, although directing the artwork, did not do the artwork himself. Don’t get me wrong – the artwork in this issue was still good. But, to be honest, it wasn’t Alex Ross and, since his name still appears on the cover, one would expect to see actual Alex Ross artwork here. And there wasn’t.
OK, let’s take it back a step. The story in this issue is solid. It’s a direct continuation of the first 2 issues, with the fascist state still reigning in the civil liberties of the people. The soldiers of this state wear full body armor that conceals their faces, thus making them entirely anonymous. That sounds about right – no one ever wants to be identified as the person removing someone’s civil liberties. Hell, even in the days when the guillotine was used the executioner wore a hood over his head – he had the ultimate job of removing the liberties of individuals in the worst way – their lives.
This issue brought to light several other heroes that are needed to join the story that have been hinted at in past issues but never seen: Clock, a former district attorney who fought against the corruption of a society, and Zorro, a freedom fighter who has always fought for the people regardless of how much the government wants him to roll over. It almost seems like the heroes are not moving fast enough, but each issue introduces 1 or 2 more which is somewhat plausible – to have 12 people appear out of nowhere at exactly the same time is ridiculous, but to have small teams begin to form and then those teams discover one another as they all fight for the same thing… It’s a little more realistic when none of our characters can fly, have X-ray vision, or super hearing. They are just people who are standing up for what’s right, and that’s the tale that Chris Roberson has wielded.
What I wrote above is an OK summary, but this issue is definitely another setup chapter, not a standalone issue. This being a miniseries, I wouldn’t expect it to be. It’s not even 50% of the way through this 8-issue miniseries and things are heating up. Even for new fans of Dynamite like me who have no background in some of the characters at all, Roberson has pulled a Star Wars and brought us into the story right as the battle begins with no backdrop, but he seems to know the characters so well that no background was needed. Kudos to you, Mr Roberson.
OK, I ranted on the art a little bit above but let me comment on that. The artwork in this issue is good. It suited the tone of the title. Artist Denis Calero did do things similar to how Alex Ross turns out a book – he did the pencils, inks, and colors himself. The artwork is 100% his and that speaks leaps and bounds. He did the book under the direction of Alex Ross, though, so that says a lot as to how the story still managed to flow from previous issues without being too disjoint, but you can still tell it’s not Alex Ross work. Yes, I am harping on about this, so let me just get it off my chest: When a miniseries starts, and with such named stars as Chris Roberson and Alex Ross working on a book together about all the characters in the publisher’s universe, you take note. It was those 2 creators names that had me pick up the book. It was a great shock when I opened issue #3, which was the book I was looking forward to the most, and found no Alex Ross artwork. It’s almost as if the title was set up to get people invested and then change everything. Now, that may not be the reason – there could have been a good reason for a new artist here – but my point is it was a surprise.
Now, Calero’s art is not Ross… and that’s actually good. If he tried to do the artwork as a clone of Ross, I’d be more upset. What Calero has done is given the book the middle ground that may suit it for the duration of the series – some painted scenes (the backgrounds and sunsets are gorgeous), the characters look different from one another (too often we see characters start to look the same and you can only tell because of the costume who they are), but the coloring and shadows are done so amazingly well it truly does represent the lighting that would be present in the situation. It’s not all great, though; the character of Mr Chalmers on page 11 (I believe)… the facial layout is off and his right eye appears to have been knocked loose in its socket as it’s looking in the complete opposite direction of his left. And, apart from one of the characters looking like they are right out of a 1930’s comic strip (not a bad thing, just an observation), it’s the only piece of artwork that was actually not up to snuff with everything else. That said, it was still better artwork than a lot of what I’ve seen coming out of the Big 2 lately, and the story was definitely top-notch.
This was a great issue. It took me several attempts to read, but only because I was actually pretty upset that it wasn’t Alex Ross’s artwork between the covers. Once I gave it a chance, though, Calero’s art did work for me in this issue. It suits the tone, and he seems to work well with the script given by Roberson. I rate this issue a little lower than maybe I should for the art switch, but it’s still a great story. Calero is slated for issue #4 based on the “Next Issue” box so at least I have an expectation now. I will still continue to get this book, unlike some other miniseries I have dropped for such a thing because the quality has not gone down at all, it’s simply changed. Next issue, my expectation is set and I am looking forward to seeing what Roberson and Calero have in store.