The first two issues of Masks and Mobsters have been lauded on the Freakin’ Awesome Network for it’s inventive mash-up premise and noir-tastic artistic style. Not only does issue #3 continue to deliver in that respect but it also showcases how MonkeyBrain Comics‘ titles excel at using the digital medium to strengthen it’s storytelling.
Masks and Mobsters follows the mafioso element pervasive in Golden City. At a time when caped crusaders and masked villains dominate the criminal landscape, the human goons and goombas struggle to keep their head above water. Recently the tide turned as the most heroic of heroes, Doctor Daylight, was murdered in cold blood, sending a strong message throughout Golden City: the supes don’t run this town no more. The death of Doctor Daylight proved to be a watershed moment and every mobster remembers exactly where they were the day the Daylight died. This issue one such mobster recounts what happened to him that night and how Doctor Daylight wasn’t the only ‘mask’ (their parlance for superhero) to run into trouble as Deadly Bones tries to take down an entire warehouse filled with drugs and badguys.
Just to get it out of the way – Josh Williamson and Mike Henderson put together a surprisingly funny, yet action-filled short story. The great thing about Monkey Brain Comics (and many creator-owned projects) is their ability to create a highly distinctive tone and feel in short order and Masks and Mobsters establishes a very singular comic that blends gritty noir, the Golden Age heroes with some 1930′s wiseguy sensibilities.
Even more interesting is the way that the creative team understands how to effectively use the Guided View technology built into Comixology platform to enhance the storytelling. The story begins with an unnamed mobster telling a story right into the ‘camera’ of the page. He’s looking right at us as if we’re right there with him. The first-person perspective provided by the panel-to-panel guided view makes you feel as if you’re actually in the same sleazy hotel room as the narrating gangster. Whether he’s looking around for his tie or leaning in close to emphasize a point, viewing the comic one panel at a time builds a sense of claustrophobic intimacy that would probably fall a bit flat in the printed form. Williamson and Henderson pull you in with these panels only to hit you hard with flashbacks that illustrate the story itself. Going back and forth between first-person perspective of being narrated to and third-person perspective of the action going down creates a very engaging level of pacing that is rarely seen in comics (digital or print). A lot of reviewers write about synergy between writer and artist, but Masks and Mobsters #3 is indicative of how the oft-forgotten third member of the creative team, the form and function of sequential art itself, can be instrumental in great storytelling.
In the end the dialogue itself plays like a well-spoken friend or uncle telling you about something funny that happened to him. It’s not overly dramatic, but more friendly and casual, contrasting the dark nature of the resulting story itself. Of course the button at the end of the story brings the entire comic back home to tone of what makes Masks and Mobsters such a great read. If you’re a die-hard print comic fan, this is a great example of a comic that might turn you towards digital. If you’re not a tablet user, that’s okay too, because the Guided View style of this comic works perfectly on a laptop or PC. Masks and Mobsters #3 is a MonkeyBrain comic and is only available via Comixology for 99 pennies and it is worth every single one and them some.