These days a comic fan can forget how truly cool it is when there’s a crossover. For example, in the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s, whenever an issue said ‘guest starring…’ it was always exciting. But today, when you see Spider-Man and Wolverine together, it just isn’t as special as it once was. MASKS is a truly unique crossover from Dynamite, featuring a bunch of its pulp characters. The Green Hornet, the Spider, the Shadow, and even Zorro. (And many more to appear in the coming issues.) A lot of today’s readers probably won’t know who some of these guys are, but that shouldn’t stop them from picking up this masterpiece of a comic. It’s a truly great start to what could be one of the best crossovers in comic history.
Here’s the official description from Dynamite:
The crossover you’ve been waiting for! Before superheroes, there were Masks!
The Shadow, the Green Hornet, Kato, the Spider and more in a story that only Dynamite could tell! For the first time EVER, these masked vigilantes are joining together in one EPIC series! It’s 1938, and the Justice Party has swept into office in New York State. But the newly-elected officials are in the control of powerful criminals, who quickly corrupt the law to their own advantage. When a fascist police state is instituted, the only ones who stand in defense of the innocent are masked vigilantes like the Shadow, the Green Hornet, Kato, and the Spider. As the confrontation builds, more masked heroes will join the fight including Black Bat, Miss Fury, Black Terror, Green Lama and many more! When the law is unjust, justice must be an outlaw!
In the year 1938, there are no superheroes, only a bunch of costumed vigilantes. It starts out with the Green Hornet and Kato stopping a bunch of thugs. Soon the Shadow appears, and things get really interesting. This comic poses some very intriguing questions. If the law is unjust, what do you do? Try to adapt, or fight against it? It’s technically the law, so you’re an outlaw if you do the latter. The Shadow says it best, “But we serve something higher than the law. We serve justice.” Chris Roberson’s writing is off the charts good, he has a really good handle of the 1938 setting and characters. This being 1938, the Green Hornet and Kato represent the ones seen in the classic show, not the ones in the current comics. (Which is a very, very good thing. This comic reminds me of what we could be getting in the Green Hornet title.) The two main characters crossing-over in this one are the Green Hornet and the Shadow, with the Spider appearing near the end. The dialogue is great between the Hornet and Shadow. They’ve never met, but they both have an understanding of the situation. The story is that the ‘Justice Party’ have risen up and changes the law, making it completely unjust. It’s quite an interesting dynamic, no super-villains, it’s just people in masks trying to bring justice to a broken city.
When I opened the comic, I was unprepared for Alex Ross’s gorgeous art. Every page is a treat to see what true comic artwork is. The opening with the Hornet and Kato coming down was just magnificent. The best page is the final one, showcasing the Hornet, Kato, the Shadow, and the Spider, it’s one of the best single pages I’ve ever seen in a comic, Alex Ross was definitely the guy for this event. He succeeds in giving it a very retro feel, with every page looking dynamic. There are four covers, all fantastic. The main one is by Ross himself, showcasing the Shadow, the Spider, the Hornet, Kato, and Zoro whom slashing his trademark Z, a truly incredible cover and the best of the bunch. The second one is less dynamic, but still a pretty good one featuring the same set of characters. The third one is the most ‘simple, but effective one,’ showing the same characters minus Zorro with someone upside down tied to a lamp-pole in the background. The fourth one is the most retro, with the classic ‘bar’ style showing the characters. A truly great collection of covers, looking forward to seeing what the future issues deliver.
Overall, a fantastic start to MASKS. I didn’t have a history with the Shadow or Spider, but it didn’t stop me from enjoying the story. The writing is quite fine, with Alex Ross’s art being a true highlight. This event proves crossovers could be fun and smart without being cliche, I really look forward to the next seven installments.