Mar 18, 2017

The 40 Years of Comics Project - Day 752: Daemon Mask #1, 1987

https://www.comics.org/issue/327642/

I set this comic aside from my recent quarter bin purchases as I was databasing them because it stood out as being something very strange and wonderful as I flipped through it. A one-shot (YAY! I love completing series!) in the style of the old pulp adventure magazines (yet another genre I think I need to add to my database), it promised international drama, over-the-top villains (and heroes), and mysterious islands filled with strange creatures. And it delivers all of this, and a bit more, though its execution is a bit wobbly.

What I didn't bank on was the philosophical subtext of being or creating "nothingness," and what that might mean, or that this would become a tale of the apocalypse on Earth, but set in the 30s. Both of those things were nice surprises. The story itself involves the discovery by a mad artist of a "universal solvent" that literally reduces all matter to nothingness. In the first few pages, the entire city of Paris is wiped from the face of the Earth, and our hero, The Whisper, sets off to discover the source of the solvent and destroy it. But The Whisper himself is an interesting study in nothingness. When he slips on his daemon mask, his humanity slips away into nothingness, even to the point of leaving the woman he loves to be devoured by a giant spider (that cover does not play out the way you'd imagine) because he deems her less important than stopping the villain. There's no grey area here. So even as the world is threatened with nonexistence, we watch, over the course of 32 pages, a human soul, one battered and bruised even before the beginning of the story, slip away into nothingness too.

Artistically, the work is competent and occasionally excellent. The writing is a bit clunky, and not in the way that apes the mode of the pulps from which the story draws. That said, it moves along at breakneck pace, and is occasionally quite exciting. Part of me feels like this could have been adapted from a pulp adventure role-playing game. And, given the era in which it's produced, I wouldn't be at all surprised.

To be continued.

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