By Phil Hester (writer), Carlos Paul, Manny Clark, Jean Dias (artist), Debora Carita (colorist)
The Story: The story opens with flashbacks of Masquerade’s past to bring us up to speed. We rewind first to Masquerade in the psychological fugue in the Urn, and watch as her force of will and personality keep her together for decades until she drops out into the real world. Her disorientation lands her in trouble in Tokyo, but also leads to the discovery of new abilities. But the new world is no more of a home for her than the past. A friend gives her some advice on how to bridge her present self with the past and she goes on a quest to find out how to do that.
What’s Good: This is a character study book. Diana Adams, the Masquerade, is someone who has always had trouble defining herself and her place in the world. Now that she has been lost for decades of captivity in the Urn, she has more of a need to do so than ever. This need propels the story and keeps the pages turning.
The writing chores by Hester are well done. A psychological journey is a different sort of story that needs different tools. A classic example of the psychological journey is almost the entire first Doctor Strange series. Hester pulls off something equally effective here, but for a different kind of character. The number of text boxes needed for this story might have dragged the momentum in other hand, but in fact, they work well here. Hester’s eloquence makes them a rich read.
The art does some heavy lifting too. The grittiness of the Tokyo scene is very effective, as are the lighting and shadow effects throughout. And some of the faces are very expressively done.
What’s Not So Good: Only two criticisms should be leveled at this book. Firstly, this is a complex story arc that has to close by the end of the issue, but this book felt a little disjointed. Parts of Masquerade’s story have to do with her childhood, others with her origin, yet others with the Urn and then those since her emergence in the present and her current search. It took some work on the reader’s part to keep those different time periods separate. Secondly, some of the art was inconsistent. Some of the faces and poses were well done, but sometimes the faces were a little rushed while the poses were stiff or awkward. In all, these were not major problems, but they weren’t minor either.
Conclusion: Masquerade #4 was a solid character study to top off this arc. There were some storytelling problems that made it more a bit of a tough go in some spots, but it was still worth it.