Writer: Serge Lehman
Artist: Stepahne Crety
Inks: Julien Hugonnard-Bert
Letters: Cat Connery
Translated: Edward Gauvin
Masked #1 is like the weird, French cousin of V for Vendetta and I, Robot. Invite him over once he’s all grown-up and puts a trade out.
Serge Lehman (writer) begins to tell us the story of the recently discharged Sgt. Frank Braffort coming home to a strife-ridden Paris. The City of Lights is fashioning controversial political figures, smoldering class struggle, pirate news broadcasts edifying serial killers, and mysterious, self-aware, self-replicating robots referred to as “anomalies.” All the while, Frank is still reeling from an emotionally traumatic army-op that is being Area-51’d due to the intervention of what seems to be a superhero. And, all of this happens over 22 pages. So, let’s all gather around and unpack the hell out of this.
Ok! Number 1: bravo to Mr. Lehman and company. While this book was originally published in France in 2012 and is just now making it to the states, it’s still always a risk to produce a comic book tackling this many ideas. My best guess? This book is going to be some sort of meditation on societal decay in the face of technological innovation metastasizing into its foundation. Some “Black Mirror” s***. But, what differentiates Masked from its dystopian cohorts is that technology doesn’t seem to be the cause of the decay, rather it’s a reflection of it. Without spoiling the book, it seems that the “anomalies” may be merely acting in accordance to all the unrest rampant throughout this future Paris. This is a very interesting idea that I am excited to follow through fruition. But…..
Number 2: this book is very dense and will be hard to follow month-to-month. Again, all of these big ideas are introduced over only 22 pages. This is an exceptional feat when you consider that so many books can barely introduce their characters and produce a worthwhile hook in that same amount of time but a story this sprawling and complex is best appreciated in a trade format. There’s just too much symbolism, imagery, and meaning to remember in month sized chunks. That isn’t a critique; it’s a suggested serving size. Symbolism, imagery, and meaning are three magic words to a great comic book which Masked exemplifies thus far but, the story will be even more powerful when you’re able to analyze it in its completed form. Make sure you remember to watch for the trade.
Number 3: there are some nitty-gritty critiques. Lehman, again does a fantastic job introducing us into his world. We got the characters, the atmosphere, the premise, and the hook to come back for #2. Well done. However, the dialogue itself does feel wooden in some instances. This may be due to the translation from its original language but I’m more inclined to believe that flow had to be sacrificed to allow for the sheer amount of plot to be introduced. At some point, Frank’s sister just has to say “hey big bro” as she enters the room to get the exposition done. It’s very excusable in this instance.
The art, however, is disappointingly uninspired. Crety (pencils) draws a decent action scene in the beginning of the book and a noteworthy splash page that depicts this techno-Paris the story inhabits but, they’re nothing to be excited about. The future in this book is exactly what the Jetsons and Blade Runner told us it would be, the character designs are bland, the anomalies look like terminators, and there’s a random rip-off of the Silver Surfer. There’s nothing actively wrong with the art, it’s just derivative, tame, and does nothing to reflect the spirit of the book. It’s not a deal-breaker by any means but it’s certainly a missed opportunity.
Verdict: Wait for the trade.
Masked #1 is the start of a full-throttle sci-fi tale of government conspiracies, socio-political unrest, robots, post-traumatic stress disorder, a superhero, and references to French culture that you won’t understand. The story has an incredible amount of potential for social commentary and the author should be commended for how many ideas are introduced in this first issue. However, the story will likely be incredibly complex and will be best appreciated in a trade format. While the art proves to be disappointing, it will be very interesting to see where this story goes and I’d recommend that you follow along with me.