Publisher: Titan Comics
Writer: Serge Lehman
Artwork: Stéphane Créty, Julien-Hugonnard-Bert and Gaetan Georges
Release Date: 23rd November, 2016
A squad of US Peacekeepers are massacred by an automated Russian drone on the Russo-Georgian border. One of the only two survivors, Frank Braffort, returns home suffering from PTSD, not recognising the world he now inhabits, a world of confusing politics, hacker activism and “anomalies” – bizarre occurrences which range from self-replicating machines to strange creatures like “The Ghostboarder”.
My main gripe with this first issue of this new Titan Comics series is the fact that writer Serge Lehman doesn’t do nearly enough to flesh out the world he has created, leaving some confusing ambiguity about the social, political and moral structures we’re dealing with. And while I appreciate that there’s probably a desire to drip-feed these things slowly to increase suspense and generate a feeling of gradual immersion, I can’t help but think that a little extra exposition or explanation would have gone a long way towards making Masked a far more enjoyable read.
Frank Braffot has all the hallmarks of being an intriguing protagonist, he just isn’t established anywhere near enough in this first issue for us to really care either way. The opening pages which see his squadron stumbling into a robotic ambush are easily the most engaging and intriguing of the issue, making it doubly disappointing that the remaining portion is so sterile and, dare I say, derivative.
Thankfully, the artistic trio of Stéphane Créty (pencils), Julien-Hugonnard-Bert (inks) and Gaetan Georges (colours) complement each other throughout, giving the book an impressively detailed aesthetic with some stunning architecture and cityscapes along the way. The human characters themselves are solid enough, but it’s definitely the backdrops of Masked that really help to sell the story. The opening sequence I mentioned above is also packed with a frantic dynamism that really sells the chaos of the situation, and, again, provides the unquestioned highlight of this first issue.
Ultimately then, while it’s clear that there’s an intriguing idea at the heart of this series, it’s one which is struggling to make itself heard at the moment. Yes, this first issue has a few flashes of greatness along the way, but with some sketchy exposition and a fairly lacklustre leading character, it’s going to be a bit of a tough sell to expect readers to persevere until the second instalment.
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