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Masquerade #1

Posted: Saturday, February 14, 2009
By: Ray Tate

Phil Hester & Alex Ross
Carlos Paul, Debora Carita (c)
Dynamite Entertainment
I've read a handful of Miss Masque stories. In terms of plot they're mostly indistinguishable from the adventures of Lady Luck and the original Black Cat. These detectives, however, behave differently. Lady Luck for example was the more humorous of the characters. Black Cat was the most athletic. Despite her high society identity, Miss Masque was more like a gumshoe. Miss Masque could have been a very generic character, but there was always a spark behind the mask. There was something in the writing that made her lively.

Masquerade reignites that spark. Hester and Ross analyze what makes Miss Masque tick. Batman is a product of vengeance. Spider-Man is a product of guilt, but what motivates Miss Masque here known as Masquerade? Rather than follow the patterns of others, Hester and Ross boldly try something new. They take a very common trait shared by many and expand upon that trait to make it the core of Miss Masque's personality.

The plot is relatively simple. The story starts in mid-adventure where the Nazi madman has Masquerade at his mercy. The screwball intends to animate a giant bucket of bolts in a spectacularly lunatic way and at the same time use Masquerade as the robot's literal stepping stone.

The attitude of Masquerade differs from other super-hero titles featuring renowned heroes. Rather than depend on nostalgia or the plot, Hester and Ross depend on the force of the characterization to persuade the reader to turn the page. Masquerade's reasoning and origin is simply compelling.

Carlos Paul and Deborah Carita provide Hester and Ross with heroic moments that are accented by the elements and atmospheric hues reflecting these forces. These heroes that Ross has been promoting through Project Superpowers lack the exposure of DC and Marvel heroes, but through their actions and the art, they walk the walk. Paul builds these heroes with potent strokes. They crackle lightning. They plow through steel. They look and act convincing.

Miss Masque at first seems to be visually overwhelmed by these more powerful characters, but as soon as she dons her mask, she becomes one of them. She doesn't suddenly gain abilities beyond those of mortals. She instead grows more confident. The reader puts his faith in her, and ultimately it's Masquerade who saves the day.

Masquerade is a refreshing variation on the origin of the super-hero. Miss Masque's motivation gibes with what was unsaid by the original character, and her wants make her an enticing hero.



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