I PLEDGE ALLEGIANCE TO THE MASK #1 & MORE! [Mini-Reviews]

Firefly #10 CoverFIREFLY #10/ Script by GREG PAK/ Pencils by DAN MCDAID/ Inks by VINCENZO FEDERICI/ Colors by JOANA LAFUENTE/ Letters by JIM CAMPBELL/ Published by BOOM! STUDIOS

Review by MATT MORRISON

What started out as a rescue mission has become a revolution, as Malcolm Reynolds finds himself in the last place he ever wanted to return – Serenity Valley on Hera. With soldiers on both sides of the Unification War surrounding them and eager to start (or restart) something, Mal just wants to get his ship and his crew and get out. Unfortunately, now they’re all scattered around Hera and facing their own problems…

I’m beginning to see why Greg Pak began to focus on Malcolm Reynolds to the exclusion of every other character from the cast of Firefly in the later issues of this series – he can’t quite capture the voice of any of them. With a Zoe who isn’t continually formal to Mal in the field, a Wash who isn’t that funny, a Kaylee who is charging into a fight and a River who talks sense, this whole issue seems off as Pak focuses on building the action at the expense of the characters. Throw in some increasingly sloppy artwork by Dan McDaid, many panels with off-model characters and a limited color palette from Joana LaFuente, and this is one rough comic. Always a book only a Browncoat could love, only the most die-hard of Serenity fans will bother with this one. Perhaps not even them.

3-5

 

I Pledge Allegience To The Mask #1 CoverI PLEDGE ALLEGIANCE TO THE MASK #1/ Script by CHRISTOPHER CANTWELL/ Art by PATRIC REYNOLDS/ Colors by LEE LOUGHRIDGE/ Letters by NATE PIEKOS/ Published by DARK HORSE COMICS

Review by ROY BUCKINGHAM

Prior to becoming a hit superhero comedy starring Jim Carrey and Cameron Diaz, The Mask first appeared in Issue #10 of Dark Horse Presents in September 1987. Then known as Masque, it was not until 1991 that The Mask would get a limited series, centered around the titular Mask of Loki. Unlike the hit film, however, The Mask was not just one person. Also, The Mask was far from a heroic figure, even if a basically good person put on the Mask of Loki. In fact, The Mask wasn’t even known as The Mask, but Big Head!

Instead of awakening a person’s repressed emotions as in the movie, the Mask of Loki would chaotically effect both the wearer and the world around them. The Mask would appear off and on in various stories throughout the 1990s, until The Mask crossed-over with DC Comics’ Joker in 2000. The Mask faded away into obscurity heading into the 21st century, other than one ill-advised attempt at doing a kid-friendly version of the character in 2015 as part of Dark Horse’s Itty Bitty line-up. Now, 25 years after the release of the movie, Christopher Cantwell, Patric Reynolds, Lee Loughridge and Nate Piekos are resurrecting the madcap mayhem of the original The Mask comics with I Pledge Allegiance To The Mask.

For those who are only familiar with the film, I should warn you that The Mask is very dark. Funny, but violent. Psychotic, but fun. That vibe, I am glad to say, is still here in I Pledge Allegiance To The Mask. Acting as a sequel to the original comic book series, Cantwell’s story is open enough to be welcoming to new fans while still drawing off the original series. The art here is top-notch as well, with Patric Reynolds’ character designs catching the eye and Lee Loughridge’s color palate being just muted enough to inspire a sense of uncertainty that clashes brilliantly with the bold green of Loki’s Mask.

As the book opens, we find Edge City in a state of ugly, controlled chaos, with many seeing the city as beyond saving. The actions of Stanley Ipkiss and the others who wore The Mask in the original comics still haunt those old enough to remember the antics of Big Head over two decades earlier, as Big Head returns committing a series of violent crimes before the Mask of Loki falls into the hands of a man running for President. Using the current political landscape of America as a backdrop, the comic does a good job of satirizing the corruption of American politics and the insanity involved in a run for the Presidency.

If you are a fan of the original Mask comics or are curious to see the true nature of this classic Dark Horse character, this comic is highly recommended. If you are looking for more of the Jim Carrey style of slapstick, kinetic humor, just stick with the movie. This book may be a tad too dark for you. That said, this return is highly welcomed and I feel few will feel disappointed by this fresh resurrection of The Mask.
5-5

Savage Sword Of Conan #10 CoverSAVAGE SWORD OF CONAN #10/ Script by ROY THOMAS/ Pencils by ALAN DAVIS/ Inks by CAM SMITH/ Colors by CHRIS SOTOMAYOR/ Letters by VC’S TRAVIS LANHAM/ Published by MARVEL COMICS

Review by MATT MORRISON

Hired to lead a party of adventurers into the Himelian Mountains in search of a lost treasure and a noble woman’s equally lost brother, Conan will find more danger than he was warned of and perhaps even more than he can handle!

Roy Thomas is more responsible than anyone for making Conan the Barbarian into an icon, adapting Robert E. Howard’s stories into comics for Marvel Comics and writing many Conan tales of his own. While many accuse Thomas of writing by rote, it’s not like Howard’s work wasn’t similarly formulaic when broken down to the bare essentials.

In other words, there’s nothing in this issue likely to win over critics of the genre, but Crom take them! Thomas can still spin a ripping yarn like nobody’s business and he is well matched in quality by the art of this issue. Alan Davis is equally legendary, though better known for his work with superheroes than sword-and-sorcery. He is more than capable of adapting his dynamic style to the task at hand, however, and Cam Smith and Chris Sotomayor provide fantastic finishes (no pun intended) to his pencils. This is a welcome throwback to the days of yore at Marvel Comics and a fine example of sword-and-sorcery done right.

4-5

Savage Tales Halloween Special #1 CoverSAVAGE TALES: A RED SONJA HALLOWEEN SPECIAL/ Script by MARK RUSSELL/ Art by JACOB EDGAR/ Colors by DEARBHLA KELLY/ Letters by HASSAN OTSMANE-ELHADU/ Published by DYNAMITE COMICS

Review by MATT MORRISON

In the days before Sonja the Red was made Queen of Hyrkania and charged with saving her homeland from the mad emperor of Zamora, a young Sonja had an encounter with the legendary sorcerers of Wigur-Nomadene. It is said those dark wizards have power enough to raise the dead, though the price they demand for their aid is high. Such is the way of magic, but to bring back her family and her first love, Sonja believes herself ready to pay any price. But is she truly ready for what the wizards demand?

When I heard that Dynamite Comics was publishing a Halloween special tying into the current Red Sonja series, I had expected a generic story of the Scourge of Hyrkania hacking her way through hordes of zombies or escaping being sacrificed as a bride to an eldritch horror. Certainly the cover suggests this, but we all know the old saying about books, covers and judgement. Instead, we are treated to a more thoughtful and nuanced story that will delight fans of the current series by Mark Russell and confound those fools still desperate to make every Red Sonja story published by Dynamite Comics conform to a single timeline.

Russell spins entirely new takes on Sonja’s origins here, far different than the background given in more recent retellings. While part of me still prefers Gail Simone’s depiction of Sonja as a young commando methodically taking down the bandits who destroyed her family’s farm, I must admit that Russell tells an entirely different tale of horror with his story of how Sonja lost her family and how she later found love living the life of a thief in Zamora. In the end this, and the horrific nature of the Sorcerors of Wigur-Nomadene, more than justify calling this comic a Halloween special, even if it is far from a traditional scary comic.

Russell’s story finds a perfect partnership with Jacob Edgar’s art. Evoking memories of Mike Mignola’s Hellboy with his streamlined style and a bit of Jack Kirby in its cinematographic action, Edgar ‘s pencils and inks are well complemented by the colors of Dearbhla Kelly. This book is a must read for all Red Sonja fans, yet will be easily embraced by those who have yet to learn of the glory of the She-Devil With A Sword.

4-5

About Matt Morrison

Matt "Starman" Morrison is The Grand Exalted High Macha of Raspur - a non-existent but real-sounding country. He has been writing about comics since before the word "blogging" was coined. He enjoys acting, role-playing, movie-riffing and sarcasm. You can follow his adventures on Twitter, @GeekyGeekyWays.

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