When you mention the title “The Mask” everyone immediately thinks of the 1994 movie starring Jim Carrey. What many don’t know is that this movie is based on a popular comic series of the same name written by John Arcudi with art by Doug Mahnke. Dark Horse has released an omnibus of the first two comics and it’s a joy for anyone who’s a fan of 80s/90s comics.
If you’re expecting these comics to be whacky, over the top comedies like the Jim Carrey movie, you’re dead wrong. These comics are gritty and violent where characters get blown and hacked to bits. There is some humor and cartoony craziness, but it’s used more for killing people.
The first comic, “The Mask,” is about Stanley Ipkiss buying a weird mask for his girlfriend Katherine. He finds out that he gains powers once donning the mask and decides to use its powers to go on a killing spree. It also causes him to slowly go insane. While this story comes across as just some 90s super gory comic for the sake of being gory and shocking, there is a lot of commentary going on here. It basically shows what happens when someone with a lot of anger acquires power and it goes to their head. It’s actually a pretty decent story. The only downside to this story is that the fifth chapter is all about Detective Kelloway. It goes on way too long and the point of a cop who wants justice more than anything gets bland quickly.
In “The Mask Returns,” a group of mafia goons put Detective Kelloway in a coma and steal the mask from him. This causes one of them to put the mask onto the getaway driver who decides to become the new crime boss. Meanwhile, Katherine is trying everything she can to get the mask back and try to find a way to destroy it. This story is a lot better written and thought out than the first issue. We have the main plot, character motivations and plotting is stringer here, showing massive improvements from Arcudi.
Finally, there’s “The Mask Strikes Back.” A delinquent teenager who’s a fan of Big Head finds it and puts it on. What follows is him and his friends each putting on the mask and each having different reactions to it. Though not as entertaining as the first two, the comic does show what happens when somebody realizes what happened to them when they have the mask on a learn a lesson from it. This comic is not as gory as the previous two (only a handful of deaths) and all the blood and gore from the first two is minimal. This is the beginning of a more comical version of the series.
One thing that gets fixed in the second story is the speech bubble used for people who wear the mask. In the first comic, it’s a little hard to read because the text is meant to show that the person talking is deranged, but it just looks like a jumbled mess.
The artwork reeks of the 80s/early 90s. From the clothing, gritty character designs and the ability to make even bright colors look dark. Not to mention the first story loves dark places to make the reader show you that this is a dark story. If you have any kind of nostalgia for the 80s/90s, this artwork will feed that nostalgia. The later two comics are brighter which makes sense since they’re not as dark as the first comic.
“The Mask Omnibus #1” has lots of great stuff and some stuff that rightfully belongs to the decade it came out, but if you want comics that have that vibe and lots of gore with some humor thrown in, this omnibus is for you.