“Looks Can Kill”
Review by Max Byrne
Year Of The Villain – Black Mask #1 is a masterfully constructed comic book, as it works on two levels. Not only is it a fascinating look back into the backstory of the often under-utilised Roman Sionis, but it is also a place setter for what is yet to come in the wider DC universe. Tom Taylor, currently capturing the imagination of comic book readers the world over with the horrifying DCeased, continues his hot streak with this excellent story.
With the character due to become a hot property in 2020 with his appearance in the upcoming Birds of Prey movie, the timing could not be better for DC to bring Black Mask to the forefront of their comics universe. This particular iteration is pitched perfectly, as the amoral Sionis of the present is framed by the first portion of the book, dedicated to his traumatic childhood and rough treatment at the hands of his parents, more concerned with competing with the Wayne family than giving their son the love he, or any child, needs.
Behind The Mask
The art of Cully Hamner really excels in this flashback portions of the book, as his depiction of the young Sionis is expertly rendered to elicit a fair degree of sympathy from the reader, as his slightly off kilter appearance gives the character a more tragic quality.
It wouldn’t be the Year of the Villain without the seemingly omnipotent Lex Luthor making his customary offer, and this issue is no exception. His exchanges with Sionis really showcase Taylor’s gift for dialogue, as the two go back and forth with a vibrancy and verve that highlights their key characteristics. Luthor the man above the rest, the arch puppet master, Sionis defiant and fighting his corner. Where the relationship between the two goes from here will be fascinating. Is Luthor using Sionis as a pawn, or as a means to an end? Or is Black Mask ready to take all he wants?
Factoring in a stunning third act that involves a returning Batwoman coming up against our titular character, the dream team of Taylor, Hamner, Stewart and Abbott excel, providing pages that are striking, kinetic and very, very readable. Whether your bag is action, dialogue or iconic figures, you’ll find your fix within the pages of this book.
Year Of The Villain – Black Mask #1 is a perfect entry point for readers not overly familiar with the character, though long-time devotees will love it too. With the promise of more to come for Black Mask down the line, the web of intrigue being woven here has reeled this fan in with both feet.
Images Courtesy Of DC Entertainment