Written by Serge Lehman | Art by Stephane Crety, Julien Hugonnard-Bert | Published by Titan Comics
I quite enjoy going into something with no idea of what it is or what it is about, and it not having the safety net of brand recognition to help it either. It has to stand or fall on its own merits. Masked had it all to do on that score. It did have the advantage of course of being picked by Titan’s editorial team, something that makes me think it almost certainly will be good, if not great. Titan’s track record of picking and repackaging series from Europe especially has been excellent. So what have we got here?
Masked opens in the midst of a violent flashback in Georgia, in Eastern Europe, where a military unit has been ambushed and taken down. The only two survivors are Frank Braffort and Melissa Taleb, who are consequently hung out to dry by their superiors and thrown out, where things don’t go too well in civilian life it seems. An intriguing hint also shows how they were the sole survivors because of being saved by a caped superhuman. Who or what was he/she? This little sequence was cleverly done, as in just a few pages we get a lot of background and setup, as we pitch up now in a Paris set in the not too distant future, that most beloved of sci-fi techniques. Not too far in time that we can’t identify with it, but enough that you can throw in some advanced tech and gadgets.
We catch up with Frank, now living with his sister Raphaelle, in a Paris seemingly beset by the appearance of mysterious metal anomalies, among many other things. This is also a Paris of flying cars, of television channels projected against the side of buildings and into the sky itself. Frank gets a visit from an old army buddy, who takes him to meet Colonel Assan, a decorated army man now in charge of security for a leading political figure. Just as he seems to be making Frank an offer he can’t refuse, which wouldn’t actually be difficult as Frank still has no job, money, or home of his own six years after the events we witnessed, a humanoid anomaly launches a surprise attack on the politician’s press conference. Chaos breaks out, though Frank holds his nerve better than most and helps destroy it.
I quite enjoyed this overall. The writing was very good, especially with the way Lehman uses clever devices to fill in a lot of background detail while allowing the central story of Frank to progress. We catch up on events past and present through a series of background news reports playing on projections throughout the city and people’s homes. This keeps us up to speed while allowing Frank’s personal story to progress, and the background events and Frank collide right at the end with that confrontation with one of those anomalies. I like the blend of action, character study, and politics this first issue brings, and the mix of a timeless ‘hero on a quest’ plot with some futuristic bells and whistles.
The art at first glance seemed a little busy to me. Plenty of pages with quite a few panels squeezed in, which was a shame as the craftsmanship of those individual panels is very good. This seemed to be both to accommodate the two nice full page splash pages and also the extensive use of cutting between scenes and characters as things developed. Taken in that context, it is a very good art job. Although some pages feel busy because of this, the layouts always flow nicely, and you never get confused as to what’s going on and who’s doing what.
I enjoyed this, but feel there is a lot more to come down the line. Promising for sure, but not quite there just yet. Let’s see what comes next.