06th Mar2017

‘Masked #4’ Review

by Dean Fuller

Written by Serge Lehman | Art by Stephane Crety, Julien Hugonnard-Bert | Published by Titan Comics


It’s a bit difficult to make my mind up about this book. On the one hand, the setting of a futuristic Paris, Paritropolis, is pretty cool, as are the giant television screens on the sides of buildings and the flying cars. Even the ‘anomolies’, the ‘villains’ such as they are, are interesting. Where I struggle though is with the main characters. None are particularly well sketched out beyond what the plot needs them to be. Our ‘hero’ Frank Braffort has barely stayed on the right side of cliché’ stock character. The whole thing does have a certain charm to it though, and it just needs to all pull together a bit better than it has.

Well last issue was something of a game changer. We learnt Frank has been manipulated the entire time, all to get him to a certain place at the right time. His old army buddy Duroc didn’t just pop up at random after all. The good news for Frank is he is special, and is now deemed costume-worthy. The bad news is, something bad has happened to his old mate Duroc. Not only has he evolved into some destructive powerful being, he has also kidnapped Frank’s sister Raphaelle. This issue was shaping up to be a good old fashioned throwdown.

And a throw down is what we get, as newly costumed Frank flies after Duroc, now called Rocket, and engage in a mid-air battle. Frank being something of a novice still comes off second best, and waked up in a room full of people called The Nautonii, who have come to warn him not to trust anyone, even his friend Colonel Assan, who apparently has his own military agenda, and especially Cleo Villanova, who has been manipulating forces she doesn’t understand. They tell Frank to ask her about The Plasm, before pulling a Batman and disappearing into the dark.

That’ll have to wait for now, as Frank returns to the fight against Duroc/Rocket, who is currently laying waste to Paris. Frank wins by literally using a diving bell to trap gas, which I hope was intentionally tongue in cheek. Well I laughed. As Paritropolis marvels at the arrival of two superhumans in its midst, Frank wrestles with his conscience over what to do now. Be a public hero? hide away? Work for Assad? Be independent? While trying to make some heavy decisions on his future, Frank is more than surprised when his ‘not seen in a long time’ parents turn up for Christmas. Are they who they seem? Time will tell, or next issue. Probably both.

So it took 4 issues but Frank is now a bona fide superhero, with a mask and cape and everything. He’s got mad skills, just no experience yet. The focus this issue more on characters and their motivations, sometimes weak as they are, than on the already established very impressive world, was welcome. We learnt a little more about what made them tick. I still think the writing is hit and miss though. For every good plot advancement, we also get weak dialogue and writing full of convenient coincidences and underdeveloped plot points.

The art continues to be a little dense, but very nicely detailed and lovely to look at. Stephane Crety does fairly average figures and characters, but fantastic environments and backgrounds. An artist of two halves, if you will. On balance though, a good one.

Still flawed and muddled, but starting to find its feet more. So far, I would say it is worth a read, but it is probably not a book you would return to. Not yet anyway. Frank still has time to impress, let’s hope he can.

*** 3/5


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