Australian independent comic book publisher Gestalt Comics was kind enough to offer us the chance to review their new book, Unmasked! As the resident comic book lover here at Fruitless Pursuits, the opportunity fell to me!
Unmasked is the story of a group of ex-super villains who hung up their capes and costumes 5 years ago and have been living as "private citizens" ever since! Particularly it follows Simon and his wife, Nancy...both ex-villains eking out a living through 9-5 type jobs, pining for the good old days. Unfortunately for them, Super Heroes still exist and the good old days maybe weren't so good. Still, how DO you fight the boredom of a typical (albeit low, at least in Simon's case) life when you used to terrorize the world? That's the question Unmasked seems posed to answer...
So what did I think of the book? Join me after the JUMP to find out (and see more artwork, too!)
Right off the bat, when I finished Unmasked #1, I thought "Wait, that's it?" I IMMEDIATELY wanted more! The characters are crude, cynical and bored...more "adult" than the most cynical or jaded Marvel or DC character. They also seem far more human. There's sex and booze and swearing and blood and quirkiness and hope and resignation, too. All the things that are in most human lives..it's certainly not an "all ages" experience.
Our main character (I'll refrain from using the word "hero"), Simon, has to choose in this book whether he wants to try and live a normal life, try and somehow get back into the game, or try and find something in between. He's clearly torn...not so much because he's seen the light and wanted to change his ways, rather due to the simple fact that he's realized that crime really doesn't pay! Not with super heroes foiling you left and right. He'd like to get back on the horse, but underneath his gruff exterior, I think maybe he's intimidated. He's had enough abuse for one lifetime and isn't in a hurry to take more. If only life weren't so boring without the thrill of Super Villainy! His day job as a bouncer is boring. His night job as a hmm...shall we say "hands on" collection agent? Small potatoes. His wife Nancy likes the toy store she runs, but she's neither as enthusiastic nor as turned on as she used to be back when they were criminals! It's tough to walk the straight-and-narrow when even your sex life is suffering from lack of excitement! How the mighty have fallen!!
It's an intriguing story! My only real complaint is that some of the transitions are a little too jumpy. In particular there is a scene where Simon is at a bar talking to some of his old colleagues. The next page, he is in a jail-house outfit talking to a nun. I don't know if it was a flashback or what was going on...took me by surprise. Similarily, when the book ended, it just stopped. No "To Be Continued" or anything.
Oh and there were a few what I can only assume are "Australianisms"...turns of phrase that seemed a little unusual to me...not incorrect but just not the way someone from NYC would talk, necessarily. Still, both these minor issues are easily overlooked when both dialogue and premise are strong!
My favourite part of this book was the Art! The artwork really reflects the gritty, jaded feel of the story, but is also big, bright and expressive! Cartoonish but at the same time down-to-Earth, it manages to reflect the 3-dimensionality of the characters well. I particularly love this two-page spread of what I believe is Nancy's scrapbook! As a matter of fact, let's show it! It's great!
This picture, to me, captures the entire essence of the book. Humanizing the "evil-doers". Cool!
So overall Unmasked #1 was an excellent read! Great premise, great art and an interesting voice! Not really heavy on plot points, as per usual in an "Issue #1", but the seeds are sown for the future. I for one am interested to see a whole lot more! Kudos, Gestalt Comics. Keep it up!
Unmasked #1 is currently available for download from Graphicly.