The creative team of Black Mask Studios is a medley of stellar talent from different publishers bringing extraordinary ideas into one brand. Their credentials vary from previously writing for the Big Two to starring in Agents of SHIELD and writing for an animated series. The following are some of their best first issues from last year (in the case of No Angel, in trade form) and are available as either trades or continuing series in 2019.
1. No Angel
Words/Story: Adrianne Palicki and Eric Palicki
Art: Ari Syahrazad
Colors: Jean-Paul Csuka
Army veteran Hannah Gregory is estranged from her family and wants nothing to do with her hometown but must return to deal with the murders of her father and brother. Her visit would have been easier if it were just a simple case of breaking and entering—unfortunately for Hannah, her family issues run way too deep and are keeping her from leaving. Her father’s mistress, Miriam, makes an appearance spouting biblical text that talks about Nephilim, children of angels and men. All that would have been weird and fine if she hadn’t told Hannah about her father’s belief in Nephilim and how his involvement with her may have gotten him killed.
Adrianne Palicki (Agents of SHIELD) and brother Eric Palicki (Marvel’s Guardians of Infinity animated series) start us off with a well paced and written first issue without giving us too much significant information. At the same time, it leaves us with a cliffhanger from which we can infer where the story is headed in terms of whether Miriam is on to something or totally full of garbage. I’m confident that no matter where the story goes, Hannah’s FBI training and army background will come to more good use. Her reflexes and instinct for detecting trouble have worked well for her. It looks like her biggest personal conflict will be stubbornness. I look forward to seeing whether she lets go of enough skepticism to see that the death of her family members and the odd occurrences that followed may not be a coincidence. Also, beware of the spiders.
Words/Story: Pat Shand
Art: Renzo Rodriguez
Colors: Mara Jayne Carpenter
Scout Turner is just your typical cryptozoologist who dissects monsters for research purposes. She also has a bad case of asthma, which gets in the way of her job and her finances (which is probably why she works that wild job in the first place). Her aloof but super-sweet assistant, Grace-Eisley, is eager to help her, but she’s a bit of a liability. Scout accidentally makes an amazing discovery, but her breakthrough has caught the attention of big pharma, which has now basically put a hit out on her.
Some of the best stories are written by authors who have personal experience with the plot. Pat Shand knows the pain of not being able to breathe well enough and understands the reluctance to spend a crap-ton of money on medication just to function “normally.” Plus getting looks and reminders that his inhaler is super expensive. That can weigh heavy on someone. Scout walks around with a chip on her shoulder but still manages to keep a positive outlook on her day-to-day life. She takes care of a nagging aunt and vouches for her annoyingly cute coworker who has Scout’s full confidence. A combination of accidents leaves her in trouble—what about side effects?
3. The Wilds
Words/Story: Vita Ayala
Art: Emily Pearson
Colors: Marissa Louise
Some unseen force is driving people into a crazed, zombie-like state. Infected people get flu-like symptoms before they go mad and mutate. Protagonist Daisy is a Runner: a reliable driver sent to retrieve supplies, exchange messages, or anything else that needs transportation for the inhabitants of her sanctuary compound.
This introductory issue lacks the action you’d expect from a zombie-related series but accomplishes the goal of setting up the story. Daisy’s partner, Heather, wants her to quit her job and leave the compound together, but Daisy is clear that being a Runner is a top priority she can’t just drop—she probably has the most important, dangerous job at the compound. Her dedication is admirable, but an apocalypse can make anyone make tough decisions they wouldn’t make otherwise. Readers understand the threat of danger and dread of what is at stake.
Words/Story: Stephanie Phillips
Art: Maan House
Colors: Dee Cunniffe
Fiancées Samantha and Michelle move into an old house in Greece. Everything is all cute, flirty, and normal until Michelle starts seeing obscure images of herself in the mirrors around the house. She tries to tell Samantha, but she is a huge skeptic and chalks it up to drunken delusions. So either their new old house is legit haunted or Michelle is dealing with some deep-seated issues that are manifesting into apparitions.
Devil Within #1 is another introductory issue that is slow but necessary. It establishes several relationship problems that could influence how the apparitions affect vulnerable Michelle versus skeptical Samantha. Along with not giving her partner the emotional support she needs when confiding in her about what she sees and hears, they both get news that rocks Samantha’s faith in how well she knows her fiancée. In many scary ghost stories, it’s common for ghosts to make themselves known to troubled souls. Based on true experiences, this comic will shake Samantha’s faith in everything she thought she knew about love and the supernatural.
Words/Story: Pat Shand
Art: Emily Pearson
Amateur model Haley is just trying to get by and pay bills. She’s building a social media platform and taking photoshoot gigs from anyone she can—not the safest approach, but at least she’s ambitious. If only her methods of trying didn’t include lying and imitating something she has no business messing with. Dealing with the consequences could either put her in life-threatening danger or give her the break she’s been yearning for.
I love that Haley is incredibly relatable. We’re not all doing nude photoshoots and trying to support our polyamorous households, but it doesn’t matter. We know financial struggle (an all-too-familiar circumstance of being a comic-book fan). Haley loves modeling and looks mostly content with her partners, which is beautiful. It’s just easier doing the stuff you love when you’re not broke. Lying to loved ones about money issues and fabricating social media is also relatable. We get the sense she’s a really nice girl, which plays into one of several potential conflicts that can affect upcoming issues. Be sure to venture to the afterword section to read Pat Shand talk about how important indie comics are to everyone in the comic-book industry. It’ll fire you up for the rest of the content that Black Mask and other indie publishers have to offer.
Thanks to all of its unique perspectives, Black Mask Studios is full of stories you won’t find anywhere else. Which of these series will you be diving into?