REVIEW: Black Mask Studios Hits the Ground Running with TWELVE REASONS TO DIE

Black Mask Studios is the ambitiously game-changing publishing company founded to bring out OCCUPY COMICS and much more, headed by Matt Pizzolo (GODKILLER, HALO-8), Steve Niles (30 DAYS OF NIGHT and much more), and Brett Gurewitz (Epitaph Records). In interviews when the company formally announced itself, they touted a new structural framework for comic book creators and also a welcoming venue for works that went beyond the status quo and ventured into the realm of “transgressive art”. Pizzolo explained early on that Black Mask had been founded upon “integrity, respect, and a team effort” and had an abiding concern for the treatment of comic creators in the face of a long history of industry indifference or even abuse. Black Mask trace their origins to a Punk Rock ethos, and seek to actively embrace activism, politics, and counterculture in their work. Though initially founded with the ostensible purpose of publishing OCCUPY COMICS (#1 will see print very shortly on May 22nd), their first raft of titles is poised to launch, heralded by their first print issue in TWELVE REASONS TO DIE #1 which has received some resounding reviews this week in various internet forums. TWELVE REASONS will be joined by two new series, LIBERATOR and BALLISTIC, in June.

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There are many reasons why TWELVE REASONS TO DIE is a comic to pick up and keep an eye on. For one thing, it confirms the intentions of Black Mask to present work that has cross-media elements in keeping with Gurewitz’ record label expertise, but it also introduces a rotating team of artists, another feature Black Mask set forth as one of their founding features. The teamwork approach is also apparent in the storytelling. Here Ghostface Killah drafts the concept for the comic with Adrian Younge while Younge, Ce Garcia, and Matthew Rosenberg (who’s also the “Bookrunner”) craft the story and Rosenberg and Patrick Kindlon fully flesh out the script. This is a fresh approach to a virtual studio system suggested in the Black Mask label. Two illustrators join in issue #1’s main narrative, Breno Tamura, and Gus Storms, but they are also supported by two “guest illustrators” for flashback sequences, Kyle Strahm and Joe Infurnari, as well as a splash-feature by Dave Murdoch. It’s a sizeable team, and Black Mask makes a point of creating something that works in numbers rather than devolving into collage-like disorder, the Achilles’ heel of projects that don’t have enough centrifugal force to pull off communal concepts. The fact that TWELVE REASONS not only makes sense, but contains the energy and artistic verve to surprise readers shows that something is holding all these elements together with a firm grip, and the principles behind Black Mask Studios may well be that elusive element.

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