Comic Review: Masks and Mobsters

MonkeyBrain comics keep putting out the hits with their new Comixology-exclusive digital catalog. Their first run was geared more towards an all-ages crowd with great titles like October Girl, Citizen Rex, Bandette and Wander, but this week they drop a title with some proper violence and Golden Age gangsters with whom you should not trifle. Set in the 1930’s, Masks and Mobsters takes a look at the flip-side of a “post-costumed” world. When caped criminals and crusaders start to horn in on the status quo of ‘cops and robbers’ the robbers take exception to being edged out of their own game. Written as a noir crime anthology, Mask and Mobsters tells one-off stories of the mob hitting back against the ‘capes’ in order to re-establish their position as the premier criminal organization in Golden City.

The instantly classic writing in Masks and Mobsters feels straight out of Depression-era NYC replete with lines like, “We’re all feeling the pinch. Everyone is afraid of pulling any kind of scam. Scared one of these wackadoos will try to save the day.” Writer Josh Williamson (known for DC’s Voodoo and the hilarious, yet creepy Xenoholics from Image Comics) puts together a sharp gangster tale about one mob soldier’s quest to find out who ratted out his boss, Sicario, to Captain Daylight – an especially sharp thorn in the mob’s side. Williamson effortlessly blends superhero and crime stories into one violent, cut-throat world where the heroes don’t always win and allegiances can be bought and sold for the right price. Even without the superhero element, Masks and Mobsters reads as a dark and twisted noir that focuses more on concise characterization and setting the proper tone than using the gimmick of a mash-up comic as a crutch. When he does throw the ‘cape’ factor into the mix, its in a subtle way that doesn’t overtake the primary focus of the comic – that of a gangster story. Its the comic equivalent of a L.A. Noire and Arkham City video game powermix with a focus more on the heroes (so far) instead of the villains.

Its a big week for this issue’s artist as Mike Henderson’s got this comic and a Casey Jones comic (through IDW) both hitting the digital market this week. Part of the Shut Up and Draw sketch blog and clearly built to thrill comic noir fans everywhere, his work on Masks and Mobsters is undeniably cool. Each panel reeks of the darkened alleys and shady storefronts what populates the few remaining criminal alcoves in Golden City. Though his line work isn’t hyper-detailed, the characters are easily distinguished and recognizable upon second appearances and the fight scene is incredibly easy to follow. There’s more than a few murders in this comic, but Henderson makes you feel the impact of each bullet to the head (and let’s be honest, the sight of some schmuck’s glasses breaking in two as he takes one betwixt the eyes is always pretty sexy). Since this is an anthology, we’ll be seeing different artists in future issues, but hopefully we’ll get to see more of Henderson down the line with MonkeyBrain.

Masks and Mobsters costs only 99 cents and is available exclusively through Comixology. For less than a buck, you’d be hard pressed to not buy it as Williamson (@Williamson_Josh) and Henderson (@MikeSHenderson) both understand what it takes to come correct with a crime noir set in a world of Golden Age heroes and gangsters.

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