Masks and Mobsters #6; why superhero origin stories usually suck.
Think of your favorite superhero. Now think about their origin story – it’s probably pretty flimsy right? An alien – who looks just like a human – from another galaxy crash lands on Earth, breathes oxygen and can process Earth-grown foodstuffs no problem. Or a guy gets radioactive waste splashed in his eyes, blinding him, but also giving him superhuman hearing. How about a billionaire tycoon/industrialist with a PHD in robotics that builds a suit of armor and doesn’t use it to make himself even richer? Not buying it? Yeah well, that’s because most superhero origin stories flat out suck. They suck because they’re written as curt precursors to the actual story and generally aren’t quality narratives of themselves. They’re reverse engineered from a character’s gimmick or superpower so things get kind of dicey in the story department. This is never more evident when compared with a top-notch comic like Masks & Mobsters #6: Origins from the digital visionaries at Monkey Brain Comics.
Consumed by the question of what makes someone become a ‘Mask’ (superheroes) a crew of bank robbers knock over a bank, not for the money, but for the chance to gun down any heroes that may show up to try and stop them. When no Masks show up to save the day, a Mask-less citizen takes a stand against him and begins a chase through the streets of Golden City that culminates in an origin story that stands alone as a great read.
Josh Williamson’s story focuses more on being a strong, but short narrative rather than some barely logical, ironic melange of plot devices heaped together. Sure it’s an origin story, but it’s not obviously an origin story like so many others. It’s a crime story first and foremost with a bank heist, hostages and one sadistic criminal who seems to take pleasure in killing heroes. If that setup’s not dark enough for you, then it’s time to put down those Stieg Larsson novels because you’ve crossed over to the other side. Williamson hits on the idea that heroes aren’t people who don a cape and mask, but the average citizen who stand up to injustice. He also plays with the institutionalized gender bias in modern comics, more specifically in how we see the traditional “damsel in distress.” That’s thematically dense as hell considering the comic’s less than sixteen pages long!
Those pages flow perfectly in this medium with guest artist Justin Greenwood’s use of shadows and negative space to build tension in the scene as two hostages attempt to escape the mobsters. He uses seven full pages to show them disappearing into the shadowy back alleys of Golden City – a move that might be criticized as wasteful in the standard format. When viewed using Comixology’s Guided View technology it feels like a perfectly executed jump-scare that would fall flat in print and honestly, if those last two pages don’t make you feel feelings then I’d tell your robot masters your emotion simulator needs repairs.