Publisher: IDW Publishing
Writer: Brandon Easton
Artwork: Tony Vargas, Jordi Escuin (colours)
Release Date: 30th November 2016
A quick caveat before I kick off this review: I completely missed IDW’s Revolution event. Not through choice, but because, well, there’s only so many hours in the day, y’know? As such, I’m coming into this new series not really knowing much about what’s happened in IDW’s new shared Hasbro universe so far. Thankfully, writer Brandon Easton takes a moment to fill us in, providing a little background information on the formation of M.A.S.K. and Miles Mayhem’s subsequent defection and ongoing crusade to “protect” the Earth by eradicating Optimus Prime and the Autobots.
The first issue sees our four-person M.A.S.K. team on a mission to try and clear their names after being framed for a series of attacks on military installations, and does a passable job of establishing the different personalities within the group. Everything’s a little ‘on the nose’ for the time being, it has to be said, with a stoic, brooding Matt Tracker and a cocky, ‘does my hair still look okay?’ Brad Turner, but at least the different members each seem to have their own different style and approach. Plus, the smaller team gives each character more of a chance to shine without becoming lost in the sea of cool masks and transforming vehicles – a frequent flaw with the previous cartoon and comic book incarnations of the series.
The artwork from Tony Vargas is solid, if a little sterile at times, and while there are some admirable action sequences along the way, it all feels a little ‘safe’ for the time being, with nothing too daring in terms of design or execution. Jordi Escuin’s colours, while technically proficient, don’t exactly help the sanitised feel either, with a bright, lively but definitely ‘by-the-numbers’ approach which, to be fair, fits in with the rest of the issue in that respect.
Easton’s dialogue is a little clunky in places, definitely skewing towards a more simplistic approach and presumably being aimed at younger readers than the nostalgia-drenched thirtysomethings I would have expected the target audience to be. It’s all very ‘Saturday Morning Cartoon’ – and understandably so – with Miles Mayhem delivering his nefarious plan in a fairly inelegant exposition dump and our plucky heroes jetting from one location to another in search of clues. That’s not to say that the cartoony approach is a bad thing necessarily, particularly given the source material, but I’d have loved to see the comic book version dig a little deeper into these characters and their motivations, providing a more engaging story than the fairly superficial one we’re presented with here.
Also, one of my main niggles about the latter stages of the issue is the fact that our M.A.S.K. crusaders seem perfectly aware that they’re walking into a trap, fully acknowledging that fact on several occasions. However, when the aforementioned trap is slammed shut, they seem completely and utterly unprepared, instantly becoming overwhelmed by their enemies and forced into a seemingly life-and-death cliffhanger. I was expecting some sort of table-turning whereby their superior intellect and preparation allow them to outsmart the bad guys, but no, they just… kinda… get trapped. It’s weird, to say the least.
While M.A.S.K. may not have been my number one cartoon and action figure franchise growing up (He-Man 4 life, yo!), I do have a lot of fond memories playing with the toys and singing that oh-so-catchy theme song on my bedroom floor. Unfortunately, the first issue of this new ongoing series doesn’t manage to capture any of the magic that made the original franchise so appealing to youngsters, providing instead a fairly dull, paint-by-numbers ‘good guys versus bad guys’ comic book featuring characters who just so happen to be wearing masks. I’m hopeful that the series can improve as it progresses, capitalising on some of the limitless potential of its subject matter, but for the time being, it’s not looking hopeful. Still… there’s no sign of T-Bob so far, so I guess I can’t be too mad.
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