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Published September 5, 2013

I haven’t been following this series from Australia’s Gestalt Comics, but Unmasked #3 is a great read. Seeing the world of supers from the villains’ perspective, Unmasked lets villains have all the fun. Simon Zandt, aka Blacknight, speaks of his exploits from prison, and doesn’t regret a moment of his career as a super-villain.

Copyright Gestalt Publishing
Copyright Gestalt Publishing

Christian Read’s dialogue features colourful language, and alongside ample violence and nudity, this comic earned its M rating. Artist Gary Chaloner’s work is fun, his style swinging more toward cartoon than realism, so some questionable anatomical choices are forgivable (I really question whether he knows how boobs work). His creative page layouts which make this stand out from a lot of other superhero fare. I really love a few of the character designs too, although I’m not sure if they were invented by Chaloner or the artist for the first two issues, Emily K. Smith. My favourite of the group is Hel, a villain clearly influenced by Marvel’s Valkyrie – she’s enormous, bulletproof, battle hungry, and loves her mead. Hel’s costume even echoes Val’s, with a similar colour scheme and hairstyle, but her personality and body type are more like Thor’s, and she’s a blast.

Garth Jones coloured the comic alongside Chaloner, and the colours bring the comic to life, contrasting the flat world of Zandt’s prison with the shadowed and vibrant underbelly where the villains operate. Simon and his wife Nancy worked for a criminal group, doing black-ops work for someone called “The Duchess.” Simon is a bit of a jackass, villainy motivated by self-interest and a hatred of authority, and he shows no remorse for anything he’s done. For me, the fun parts of this issue are the scenes with the lady villains – Hel, Nancy, and another member of the villain group, Rayven, have lunch and discuss plans for their shares of the job’s profit. Nancy would like to get back into art, Rayven would like to open a research facility, and Hel is less interested in pay, reminiscing on the days when she was a villain for the sake of battle. Their conversation continues into a job, and their varied motivations for becoming villains – as well as the self-awareness to realize that they are villains, not anti-heroes – was a neat read.

Simon just enjoys the thrill, so despite warnings from his employer and teammate Claude, Simon, Nancy, and Hel attack an Airforce Base nights before an organised job. With booze in hand, they destroy millions of dollars of equipment, kill three men, and injure dozens more out of simple boredom. Claude is furious that they jeopardised the job – and his chance of a payday – and attacks Simon, who attack back. Before we can see the outcome of the battle, the comic cuts to black.

This series has a lot of potential, especially if you’re looking for a different take on the capes genre. I’d love to see more of the team and their dynamics, since their scenes together as a group were more interesting to me than Simon’s prison monologues, but I appreciate the glimpses we did get. All in all, a solid effort from an independent company, and I would definitely be interested in pursuing their other series.

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