So Close, But Too Far

“Masks,” I wanted to like you. I really, really did. But you let me down.

You were supposed try to do something cool, mixing poetry and comic-books, which sounds like the perfect artistic cocktail.

After all, comic-books are fragmented visuals given new meaning when juxtaposed with one another. Poetry is series of fragmented lines given new life when place in a sequence. Putting those things together should be a beautiful dysfunctional marriage that all great artworks are based on. This should be the new wave right now in either the poetic or artistic community.

And there “Masks” is telling us in the introduction that “Masks” is a photographic poem and exploration into the nature of identity.” In the beginning, it looked like it was going in that direction.

The enigmatic and poetic prose combined with the digital art and photorealism hybrid in the first issue was bold. Lines such as “We created new/ worlds for only/ her and me. And/ reality was only a dream,” are forgivable. Even the panel of upside-down skinless victims that look like they were created by software in the late 90s gets a pass.

Despite its flaws, there were some stunning pages here, moving lines given further depth by brilliant images.

“The voice in my head that’s/really a spider scrapes/ at my mind with its claws.// I can hear its silver/thread unwind and I’m/ seeing the world in a/ different light.” The words were made more poignant and unsettling with a close-up image of turquoise-colored eye in the backdrop.

But by the second and final issue it was becoming more obvious that this would degenerate into a cliché crime drama with a basic twist of looking through the murder’s perspective. And while the ending has an eerie quality of a well-crafted horror story, it’s under minded by what this comic series could have been.

Even the prose and artwork degenerated. Lines such as,“The ghosts that wont/ leave, the torment and/ guilt swarm me.// I can’t tell what’s/ real. Am I real?” are cringe-worthy. Also, combining photos of human beings with blood that’s obviously digitized takes the reader away from the story awfully quickly.

If it could have maintained the earlier momentum in terms of the strength of the prose and artwork, and found a more fitting storyline to explore the nature of identity, this could have been the first salvo in a new movement.

About Cesar R. Bustamante Jr. 29 Articles
Multimedia journalist with a special interest in data-viz & visual storytelling. Kind of a geek. crbustamantejr at LinkedIn page

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