Theory crafting is one of my favorite aspects of entertainment media. I often have more fun browsing message boards than I do consuming the content itself. For me, this started off when I started watching week-to-week dramas while they were airing. Waiting an entire week in suspense just wasn't enough. I began to speculate about monthly comic titles, or cryptic messages in video games. If there is a clue to be had, I'll be there.
When I heard Jon Chad was releasing a large multimedia comic project, I knew I had to jump in and take a look. I didn't know much about the large box labeled "Bad Mask". When I told social media I had purchased the set Chad simply replied "I hope you're ready for a lot of robots". It was at that point I knew I was in good hands.
The mail arrived, and my fiance asked if I had ordered us a new board game. I began to wonder the same thing as I opened the large heavy box. This was like no comic book I had ever read before. My mind was blown as I found myself in possession of trading cards, memos, documents and periodicals all telling one cohesive story.
Chad pulls all of these materials together to tell the tale of the struggles between heroic robot Metal Metro and the terrorist organization known as Bad Mask. Readers take on the role of Brasso Mask, a low-ranking Bad Mask agent. The box of goods is sent to Brasso by high ranking Diode Mask. All of the pieces serve as Diode's argument to prove the truth about Metal Metro.
The plot of the story itself is simple. Metal Metro is an all-in-one crime fighting machine capable of taking on the greatest of threats. Bad Mask is an organization bent on overthrowing Metal Metro's authoritarian enforcement. A wrench is thrown into this classic "good vs. evil" scenario as we begin to look beneath the surface.
I took my introduction letter from Diode Mask very seriously. Bad Mask was attempting to prove their point to me, and I was ready to make sure their logic was sound. Who am I to be so easily swayed by a group of radical revolutionaries? With a cup of coffee and a notebook, I was ready to dig in.
The amount of information found in Bad Mask is overwhelming in a good way. This serves as a testament to Chad's stunning world-building skills. By the time I was done digesting the first few items I already had over three full pages of notes along with a four page chronological timeline. Every aspect of the items were soaked in information about the Bad Mask universe.
I found myself writing down bar code numbers. I was finding secret messages in sudoku puzzles. This wasn't my proudest moment, but even I lifted up the plastic insert in the box to make sure there was nothing hidden underneath. I was finding connections in even the most minute details, and my research seemed like it was paying off. Sure, I had my questions and theories, but all of the details seemed to be forming one coherent story.
One of the most amazing aspects of Bad Mask is the work's ability to drive the plot through the items. The introduction letter tells us the order in which to review all of the objects in the box. At first I questioned this importance, but as I made my way through the items I realized how crucial this was to the storytelling. The order of the items supplied information in a manner that progressed the narrative and set up plot twists and developments.
Two of the most impressive items in Bad Mask are the newspaper and the magazine. Both items contain many articles that are not related to the main plot. These writings give an excellent overview of
society in Bad Mask. Many of these articles serve as commentary for political/cultural issues that are present in modern America. This is part of what makes Bad Mask so special. The plot may be about robots and super villains, but the cultural setting of the work hits close to home.
The quality of the items in Bad Mask is nothing short of exemplary. Every piece looks and feels like they should. The magazine cover is shiny and glossy. The meeting notes come in a plastic presentation binder. Case files can be found in the manilla folder. It really felt like I were receiving objects from another universe. By the end of the story the theory I had been working on had been proven wrong. However the ending exceeded anything that could be found in my notes and I am happy about that. Bad Mask is easily the most immersive comic book experience I have ever had. I know I haven't unlocked every secret and Easter egg in the box. I am looking forward to finding these in future rereads.
I wanted to keep this review as spoiler-free as possible. I want everyone to have the same experience with this book that I did. If you have read Bad Mask and would like to discuss the story, please feel free to reach out to me on social media.
Bad Mask is a comic created by Jon Chad. It is published by Boom! Studios. The book was released in December of 2017. It can be purchased on Amazon or through Boom! Studios directly.