By Serge Lehman, Stephane Crety, Julien Hugonnard-Bert, and Gaetan Georges
Masked Volume One: “Anomalies” by award-winning French novelist turned critically acclaimed comics writer, Serge Lehman, makes it’s English language debut. As of issue #1 — courtesy of publisher Titan Comics — it’s obvious why this book is worthy of multiple translations. Masked is a superhero, science-fiction story with trauma-based undertones, specifically Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). It’s a very real world twist that offers readers an interesting perspective on what it means to be a reluctant hero in a technologically advanced world. Nevertheless, Masked is a comic that gives you a lot of fascinating elements right off the bat and just keeps on giving throughout.
Part of what this first issue offers is a look at the artistic abilities of penciler Stephane Crety, inker Julien Hugonnard-Bert, and colorist Gaetan Georges. You should know, Crety and Hugonnard-Bert have worked together since Masked as well, most notably on Dark Horse’s Star Wars. This team is remarkable and there’s seemingly nothing they can’t do, so if you like them you could easily get more of their work. Issue #1 feels like an introduction for readers in a lot of ways, and despite heavy exposition, the artwork shines. The settings are genuinely considered. Buildings inside and outside have details and character worthy of the real world. Nothing is wasted either. For instance, a quick establishing shot of a skyscraper has more to do with the people at street level than the building itself. This world they’ve created is not just alive, it’s downright busy. You could cherry-pick possible influences from other comics and random areas of pop culture — Alan Moore, Luc Besson and Alejandro Jodorowsky spring to mind. The real point, however, is that this book has a lot going for it already in terms of the writing alone, making the artwork an added bonus more than a means of enhancing a script through interpretation.
Crety and his fellow artists create images that are anything but static. Everything is constantly moving, and in the volatile world Lehman depicts, that’s a lot of stuff to draw. Take a look at one of the sprawling cityscapes and you may begin to wonder if creating this comic was ever too much of a challenge. Whether it was or not, you wont be able to find flaws so easily here, because this is a rock solid effort. The colors are so consistently efficient that it makes the pencils and inks more noticeable. That is to say, what you get with Masked is layers of artistic renderings, with a sense of professionalism that holds each level up in order to support the comic with a singular style.
The one thing holding the book back so far is the amount of the aforementioned exposition. It’s heavy, but not redundant, which is the story’s saving grace. Luckily, since this book has been released in its entirety already, we know that it’s received a fair deal of praise. That’s a good sign, but even still, issue #1 is worth your time. It’s a unique story that not only shows the contrasts between humans and machines, but also the contrasts that occur when you add in superheroes. Relationships matter to Lehman, whether its central or background characters. He writes for the story giving it a voice that both informs and entertains through the actions of the people within. A sense of dread looms over France and advancements in technology have consequences that may outweigh their value. Issue #1 gives us a reason to keep reading, folks to root for, and a sense of mystery that may yet implicate those who would otherwise be the good guys.
Masked hits stands with a bunch of variant covers to choose from, so check them out. Ultimately, this is a pretty good comic with fantastic art, that’ll give readers more insight as to what comic books are like from around the globe. You really can’t go wrong.