Spider-Man: Masques, collects Spider-Man #6-7 by Todd McFarlane
Over a year ago I reviewed Spider-Man: Torment, superstar artists Todd McFarlane's first work on the character as both writer and artist. While Torment has become one of the most talked about Spider-Man stories in recent years, his second storyline failed to make the same impression, and has been largely forgotten about in most circles. At times, Masques feels a lot like a product of the 90's, featuring many of the most notable excesses of the era. Despite this it is refreshing to see Spider-Man appearing in a different sort of storyline, far removed from the more 'fun' arcs that the character is known for.
Masques features the short lived 'Demonic Hobgoblin' as the villain of the piece, as he kidnaps a small boy, seeking to remake him in his own image. While this particular take on the character is not one that is generally well thought of, I thought it worked excellently in this two-parter. His motivations are a little murky and his dialogue is very hackneyed, but there is a real sense of menace and fear around the character, largely created by McFarlane's superb, atmospheric artwork. His renditions of regular human's often drew criticism, but he was born to draw a story of this nature.
Ghost Rider also appears, and although he is also very well drawn I found his presence in the story a little forced and pointless. I have never thought him to be a particularly interesting character, and there is little done here to develop his character beyond a very basic level. The idea of Spidey finding conflict with a hero using more extreme methods than his is one that has been done to death over the years, and there is little attempt here to put a new spin on it. Nevertheless, the character looks great and fits with the overall tone of the story.
If you can put up with some poor dialogue and questionable storytelling from McFarlane, I would recommend this as at the very least, a beautiful looking comic book story, and an attempt to tell a different sort of story with Spider-Man. The character himself has little of note to do, but that doesn't matter too much as McFarlane crafts a cinematic thrill ride, with some superb visuals. It might sound like I am damning it with faint praise by calling it his finest work on the adjectiveless Spider-Man title, but that doesn't make it any less true.