Let me start with a quick disclaimer. The target audience for this book is me. For years I have been a fan of Golden Age radio shows like The Shadow and The Green Hornet, pulp novels like The Shadow and The Spider, and Zorro, as well as movie serials featuring masked heroes, many whom are found in this graphic novel.
Dynamite has done a wonderful job of tying these various characters into a single story line without overburdening the reader with origins, hero vs. hero fights or contrived ways to tie all the heroes together. Instead, we are treated to different heroes teaming up in smaller groups to fight a common enemy.
The action begins in 1030’s New York where the Green Hornet has perused a Chicago mobster to New York. Soon the Green Hornet and Kato are teaming up with The Shadow and The Spider to combat the plans of the newly elected mayor. It seems he has begun recruiting low to mid level gangsters onto the police department and begins making tyrannical laws that leave the citizens of the Big Apple defenseless against the machinations of the mystery man behind the mayor.
Elsewhere, Rafael Vega a descendant of Don Diego de la Vega aka Zorro is arrested while trying to find work as an illustrator, he is defended by Tony Quinn. In the only origin stories in the book we see how Quinn is blinded by battery acid while helping Vega escape an execution only to discover he can still see in the dark, Donning a costume he becomes the Black Bat. Vega similarly takes advantage of a masquerade shop to resurrect his his ancestors persona of Zorro.
Finally, we have another pairing of Jethro Dumont, publicly known as the criminologist and Tibetan Buddhist The Green Lama with Marla Drake, one of the earliest female super-heroes know as Miss Fury. Later the team is completed with the super strong and invulnerable Black Terror.
While many of these characters may be unfamiliar to today’s audience they became the inspiration for almost every super-hero making his or her way to the big screen these days. The artwork in this book is amazing, the writing is first rate and the story has more than a few overtones of modern America with news stories of private military companies operating in the U.S. outside the law (e.g. Blackwater in New Orleans after hurricane Katrina or the overreaching surveillance being conducted by private firms).
If you are not familiar with these characters, or you want to read more of their solo adventures, Dynamite has (or had) solo adventures of all the characters excluding the Green Lama. Readers may also want to read the Project Superpowers by Dynamite to get a better grounding in the many public domain super-heroes the company has resurrected under the creative guidance of artist Alex Ross.
While this may not be familiar territory for every reader, the limited and self-contained nature of the story keeps it accessible for those who are new to these heroes and makes a great love note to fans of the Golden Age like myself.
I give Masks, Volume 1, 4 out of 5 stars.