First and foremost, a HUGE thank you to John Schlim for allowing us preview the book before the launch of the Kickstarter campaign AUGUST 1st !
***Preview copy sent had disclaimer: “this isn’t the final edition, it doesn’t yet include all material and there may still be some tweaking done before publication. Consider it the beta”
So with that in mind, the review will reflect the fact that some of what we found could be addressed, more fleshed out, or read better with the final copy.***
First things first. The artwork is deceptively good. This isn’t a knock or a passive aggressive slight disguised as praise. I mean exactly that, it’s good on a scale I didn’t recognize at first. Throughout the first read through I was going back and forth on the artwork. There’s a mixed bag of things I noticed. Immediately the thing that pops out is that the individual characterization is very well done. Each significant person in the book looks their own and presents a distinct image and personality. The writing aids in this but the art allows so that we aren’t having to take our cues from what’s written to grasp the entirety of what’s drawn. The overall feel of the book fits the description given. “Futuristic, cyberpunk” is the target tone. For the most part it follows. We get a shot where there’s clearly flying cars off in the distance and the constructs we get back up the future vibe (such as a shot of a tube/rail train that is clearly more than a dozen stories in the air). Combined with the individual characterizations the setting lends to a satisfying overall look for the book. As I stated, deceptively good.
My only gripes visually, are small. There’s a spat in the book where it seems as though the art was either drawn at a different time or possibly in a rushed time frame perhaps. It’s just for a smidge but it did catch my eye and bump the flow off slightly. Nothing egregious but enough to notice. In a few spots there are panels that either don’t blend well or look forced with the others on the page. It doesn’t interfere, but again it was enough to notice here and there. Lastly, at the end of the issue, we get the story playing out in the rain. The rain itself is fine. It’s the inconsistency in how it plays with the environment and the people that got me. There’s a ‘glow’ used in a few panels that works well. Sometimes you see drips off fingers or ‘blips’ of rain drops hitting a forehead. Then there’s panels where it is just the lines of the rain over the top of the panel with literally no response or effect on the image otherwise. The first pass over of the book made me wonder about the backgrounds. There are plenty of detailed shots but there’s plenty of plain or basic backgrounds as well. The more I went over the book I’ve come to feel that this was done intentionally in order to force focus on what the book is conveying with the characters. If that’s the case, I’m good with it.
Now, on to the story itself. Overall, I’m intrigued. I would pick up a second issue and see where things go and what I could make of the plot myself. It is clear that there’s quite a bit going on. Our main protagonist has enough himself. We’re greeted with the fact that he apparently has two personalities, or two actual minds living within his body. He’ll lose days at a time either because of that fact or his own indulgences. He’s on a case that nobody else seemingly gives a damn about because, in a very Judge Dredd sort of way, society is layered both literally and figuratively. However, he’s not the only one with issues. We are also given a woman that is plainly not wanting to be in her situation. The two characters appeared to be on a crash course with their separate goings on, but that isn’t quite what we got. This is a story that clearly has roots in several places. There’s not so much going on that it’s confusing or comes off as tossing darts at different ideas hoping to land on a good one. It has some rough edges, but that’s about it. There’s more going on, which is obvious, and you can’t help but feel that it all IS connected. How though? Where does each piece fit and just WHO are the people we’ve been introduced too? MASQUE will be a slow burning story in the reveal aspect. I’m good with that. There’s enough given in this first issue to make me want to know more.
Again, this was a “BETA” review issue so the final product will be more polished and complete.
WRITTEN BY: John Schlim Jr
ARTWORK BY: Ev Cantada
LETTERS BY: Robin Jones