Publisher: Arcana Studio
Written by Curtis Lawson
Art by Alex Chong and Nico Leon
You gotta love a story that puts you right in the action from the very beginning. Mastema opens up on a battle between a powerful witch and a group of warriors. We quickly see how outmatched the warriors are when she calls forth a giant skeleton arm from the ground to crush the warriors. However, one warrior emerges who seems exceptional, but he too is captured. The artwork and panel set up is superior. It is obvious that the creators were meticulous in this respect. Panel two on page five shows a particularly cool scene as the warrior throws a sword at the witch. She summons a skeleton to capture the sword. It holds the sword with fore finger and thumb inches from her face. She stands non-chalante and says, “You still hope for victory, Sir Knight?” Those seven words along with the image show the severity of the knight’s predicament. This is excellent panel set up.
We find that Mastema is the Knight and this scene was the beginning of a love/hate relationship between him and the witch, Luedke. The story revolves around the past between these two and a demonic creature to which Mastema’s soul is bound.
This dark Fantasy is surprising in it’s ability to draw in to the story. The pacing is done in a way that you keep reading to find out what happens next. Many storytellers forget to employ this important technique.
Mastema is established excellently as a sympathetic protagonist. The back-story that explains why he is a cold and hardened warrior is told through several flashback sequences. Luedke used dark magic to literally rip his soul from him and bind it to the demon that now terrorizes the countryside. In one flashback sequence we see a gut-wrenching scene where Mastema returns to his family to tell them that they will never see him again. He does this as a hooded warrior and not as himself. His wife still recognizes him and clings to him calling his name, Conrad. He wrenches away from her and screams, “Conrad Belfort is dead.” He leaves. We understand his pain now.
It seems that Mastema seeks closure rather than vengeance. The story culminates in a climactic battle between Mastema, the demon, Luedke, and her apprentice. There is a sequence of events that unfold where there is a series of betrayals. This could have been confusing, but again well thought out panels and great writing makes it an awesome sequence.
It’s common in stories, especially in the fantasy genre, to make the villain the embodiment of ultimate evil. However, the greatest villains are those that show a human side, something from their past that reveals the reason for their evil intentions. Luedke the witch is revealed to have a deep passion and love for beautiful things. This makes her a sympathetic villain and even transforms her into an anti-hero when she forms an alliance with Mastema to destroy the demon.
The art is great in this book. I particularly like the colors chosen. They fit the story and the world of Mastema perfectly. Choosing the wrong artist can destroy a comic. The wrong style of pencils can set the wrong mood for the story. An inept inker can make a mess of great pencils. A colorist who chooses wrong colors can destroy the work of the artist before them. Even the letterer can mess up how we read the characters dialogue if the balloon placement is wrong or the style of balloon and font is wrong. In my opinion the perfect creative team was brought together for this book. I look forward to the next installment of Mastema.