REVIEW: The Red Mask From Mars (“Origin”)

There’s is something about the red planet that has always been a boon to human imagination. From Percy Greg‘s seminal Across the Zodiac back in 1880 to Tim Burton‘s Mars Attacks! back in 1996, by way of Edgar Rice Burroughs, the fourth planet in our solar system, in fictional terms, ranks second only to the third. With well over a century of pulpy goodness to draw upon, The Red Mask From Mars comes, at least, from a (literally) storied history.

The series, created, illustrated, and co-written by Vincent Hunt, wears its influences proudly. Somewhere between The Mask (the PG-version of the film as opposed to the original Dark Horse sociopath) and The Losers (our hero is quickly integrated into a team of unlikely misfits), “Origin” does exactly what it says on the tin, setting up the eponymous Red for future adventures. There’s a healthy dose of Alien and Fantastic Four in there too for good measure.

The Red Mask from Mars pulls off that most tricky element of post-modernity: self-awareness. Without acknowledging the predecessors from whom you’re lovingly pilfering, you run the risk of simple plagiarism, but, with sly nods and the occasional overt shout-out, you risk becoming a victim of your own irony. Luckily, Hunt and Daniel Chant‘s story strikes a balance: while it’s very much the sum of its parts, “Origins” sense of chaotic fun carries it through the homage.

The art style is simple iconic black-and-white/grey-scale – the only recurring object of color is the “mask” itself – and, with a trash-talking lunatic protagonist and Alien Space Vampires, Red Mask has a distinct ’60s B-movie vibe about it, but it’s all so lovingly rendered it’s impossible not to like. It’s fun and dynamic, and, at only 23 pages, it doesn’t outstay its welcome.

Being, at its core, shamelessly derivative, it remains to be seen if The Red Mask from Mars can be sustained for the length of a miniseries, as Hunt intends, but this first installment is worth a well-deserved three and a half stars.

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Robert Wallis

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