Masks is a comic book series by Dynamite comics. It stars classic heroes like The Green Hornet, his sidekick Kato, The Shadow, and Zorro. Alex Ross illustrated the first issue. The art is good in the following issues as well.

Here’s my problem – I can understand the desire to make the series campy, and relative to the radio serials of the 1930s. I can even respect that idea. What I cannot abide is mimicking an artform without sincerity, and injecting modern cynicism into the characters and story. Masks feels like it was written by a child. The villains come out of nowhere, they instantly rule as a police state, the heroes are archaic, cliche, and shallow. By book three I was wondering why I was still reading.

So many amazing artists signed on to this series, yet the story is weak, and the writing is poor. All these incredible heroes,  and all this potential, yet Masks falls horribly short of expectation. In book one, on the third page for example, Kato loses his status when he gets one-upped by The Shadow. Two pages later he’s still recovering. Kato is the sidekick, but he is also the most heroic of the duo. Here he’s treated like a sideshow. Margot Lane is an embittered, bored, shallow woman who made my eyes roll with her first sentence. Lamont Cranston is thereby demoted to being a self-interested elitist; something that is most certainly unpopular these days.

There is talk in the first book about the new mayor, his justice party, and all the new regulations he has passed. By page 10 his people are in charge, and doing whatever they want. They are in police uniforms, and they are verbally vulgar, calling Rafael Vega a “beaner.” Instant cops, on an instant beat, who do whatever they want? The believability went out the window with that scene.

Lesson learned? Don’t presume to put an audio medium successfully onto the page without more dedication. The voices as I read them did not reflect the dramatic vocal training of radio personalities of the 1930s. Therefore if you take the time to read this series, keep in mind that the voice of Orson Wells is a good one to use to get you through the banal scripting.

Furthermore, the assumptions and influence of modern culture tends to imprint itself on period pieces, be they literature, comics, movies, or plays. That is something to be cautious about. Too much bias defames the character, takes away from their potential, and diminishes their status. Overall result – you lose the reader’s interest.

Try harder Dynamite.