I know not all of you dear readers are children of the eighties so I'll let your lack of knowledge of M.A.S.K. AND V.E.N.O.M. slide. It may surprise you that from 1985-1986 M.A.S.K. had all the people at Hasbro abuzz with possibility. During that year 75 half hour cartoon episodes were produced and aired. 75! It spawned four toy-lines by 1988. It even had three video games for the ZX Spectrum, Commodore 64, and Amstrad CPC. If you need a refresher here is the intro.
I hope that was as good for you as it was for me.
Well, guess what, M.A.S.K. (which stands for Mobile Armored Strike Kommand) is back with a brand new comic. What with Micronauts, Visionaries, and G.I. Joe making a comeback why not bank on all of our nostalgia one more time? I mean it obviously worked on me. That is to say, it works until it doesn't. So, lets dig in and see what we are dealing with here.
Like many rebooted Hasbro comics we have to start with the recruiting of a new generation of heroes... or villains. To be a part of this particular black-ops team you need five traits: Stress Resistance, Competitiveness, Self-Reliance, Self-Criticism, and Stoicism. All the new recuites have at least three of these traits, but if they can't acquire all five then... well... accidents happen.
The protagonist we should be most interested in is a recruit by the name of Matthew Trakker, engineer and son of a former Kommando. He's on the verge of getting his own "accident" despite being picked as team leader. He seems to have some ethical compunctions that a few others may lack.
Tensions keep building with the new recruits as the Miles, the Chief of Operations, takes them for another training mission in the Canadian Rockies... away from US soil. There, the team is forced to deal with what is essentially a train. A train that is a bomb. A bomb that is full of people. People that they can't save. This doesn't stop Trakker from trying despite the rest of his team seeming apathy. His own demolitions expert breaks the connection to the rail car, killing all the civilians on board.
It's at this point the reader really has to question what is going on. The "masks" are being used, the "cars" from eighties are being used. Everyone but Trakker seems to be on the.. evil side. The reveal comes near the end of the comic where Miles is having a chat with Vanessa about Miles and we a slight peek at his computer. We see V.EN.O.M. (the Very Evil Network of Mayhem) on his screen with pictures of his recruits.
I'm going to cut to the chase here. I loved this comic. I was expecting yet another rebooted eighties franchise with a new recruit class and the re-emergence of an old threat (Voltron). Brandon Easton does do exactly that but turns the concept on it's head. While Easton doesn't explicitly let the reader know the V.E.N.O.M. has infiltrated M.A.S.K. but there are allot of clues that leads me down this line of thought. It's intriguing if not totally original.
The art is done co-cooperatively by Tommy Lee Edwards and Tony Vargas. Their work is vibrant, detailed, and evokes just enough of the original series to keep the theme song running on an endless loop in my head. It's by no means either of their best work, but its a great deal better than many of the "big two's" artists that keep getting work. The down side to this comic is something that tends to plague these reboots and IDW publications in general: poor pacing and panel work.
Buy this book is only to relive your youth, but keep buying to get an unexpectedly good story.
Rating: 8.5/10 Morning Glories