Called Up to the Big Leagues: Where Have Masquerade and Kato Been All My life?
There’s so much backstory surrounding the heroines and villains of Swords of Sorrow (SoS), and I’m straight up giddy to get an opportunity to not only have reviewed SoS: Masquerade and Kato, but to also peek into their specific histories and find out where these kickass ladies have been hiding out.
Of course, where does a rookie comic book lover start when researching the history of a character? My bank account strictly forbade buying every comic that included these characters, so I had to make some hard choices about what to pull from Internet searches and what to buy in hard copy for researching pleasure: it came down to 1) choosing the most recent titles from Dynamite with these characters in lead roles and 2) the titles’ availability on eBay.
Masquerade, also known as Miss Masque, also known as Diana Adams, is a Golden Age public domain comic book character brought to life by Nedor Comics in 1946. She’s been revived by a few different comic book publishers, but I’m going to focus on her stint in a four part mini-series in 2009 connected to Dynamite Entertainment’s Project Superpowers titles.
As a socialite with a little too much time on her hands and zero superpowers, Masquerade did what any Scooby Doo fan would cheer on – she meddled. And she wore a mask, not to conceal her identity as much as to scare thugs into thinking she may have super powers. On the first page of Masquerade #1, the heroine herself explains what’s led her to fight crime:
“What I was, and what I remain is curious. Curious about the hidden networks, the back alley treaties, the unspoken rules, and the unpleasant truths that course just under the skin of society.”
Isn’t she adorable?
The first issue is a poor representation of the character we see in SoS. In it she stumbles onto a Nazi cult plot, complete with giant robot. She’s then rescued by a few of the Project Superpowers guys who don’t waste any time making her feel inferior to their, well, superpowers. She in turn rescues them back by solving the mystery of the robot commands (I’ll spoil it for you – she had to speak in German), and it ends in an aw-shucks moment from her when the guys admit she’s not totally useless.
No wonder she got a reboot.
Nevertheless, I pushed on through #2 – #4 of the mini-series, which did an incredible job of setting up her backstory. Several flashbacks show how the realization that her dad wasn’t totally honest in his dealings with bootleggers and that her brother definitely wasn’t honest in a kidnapping plot (hers), and his subsequent murder because of said plot, lights a fire, changing her curiosity to fully fledged crime fighting detective.
But, wait. How did she get from post-WWII to present day? And she has superpowers now, right?
Right. In the Project Superpowers mini-series, we see her bouncing from one investigation to another with her dwindling Project Superpowers brethren where she is often questioning where have all the good men gone? Lucky for her, it doesn’t take too long to find out that all the Superpowers heroes have been betrayed by The Fighting Yank and trapped in Pandora’s Urn. While it isn’t explained in this mini-series, a couple of searches indicate that the Fighting Yank made a misguided decision to rid the world of all evil, and in order to do so, he had to trap the heroes as well. Seventy years later, he figures out it was a very bad idea and lets everyone out of the Urn.
Issue #4 has Masquerade pop out of the urn and into present day Tokyo, suffering from amnesia and rocking a brand new outfit. Which thank goodness no longer consists of a crop top, mini skirt, and weird as hell hat with a fin. She’s immediately assaulted by back alley thugs who assume she’s a cosplayer. When they remove her mask, she’s able to body jump into the nearest thug and manipulates him like a puppet.
Boom, the urn gave her body snatching powers, and she’s conveniently in present day.
Along comes The Fighting Yank, now repentant of trapping her along with the others, and with a single zapping touch of his hand, relieves her of the amnesia. All of this gets wrapped up neatly with a return to her former home where she meets extended family (her late brother’s secret family) who welcomes her with open arms. And right back to crime fighting she goes.
Is this the same Masquerade we see in SoS? No. And that’s a good thing. A lot of the events in the mini-series happened to Masquerade as if she had no control. Her start in SoS is a much better reflection of the optimistic do-gooder in control of her own crime fighting destiny. Now that Masquerade is separate from the fellas of Project Superpowers, she has a chance to shine. Here’s hoping the creators give her another opportunity at a mini-series.
The background of Mulan Kato, daughter of the Kato, has a familiar ring to it. Take up the good fight to avenge a parent. In Dynamite Entertainment’s Kato Volume One: Not My Father’s Daughter released in 2010, and Kato Volume Two: Living in America released in 2011, we meet a sassy teenager living under the roof of and in the shadow of her legendary father, the original Kato. Her father had returned to Japan to marry, raise Mulan, and train some beefy dudes in a private studio not as well hidden as they’d hoped.
How do we know Mulan is a sassy teen? In the first issue, she’s late for training and gets her cell phone taken away by daddy. In retaliation, she takes off to the city to hang with her girls and start bar fights. Good times.
While she’s off dealing with her daddy issues, an angry foe of Kato, seeking revenge from Kato’s past Green Hornet days, infiltrates their house and murders Mulan Kato’s mother before attempting to murder her father. This foe is the Black Hornet, and he’s more than a little bit of a jerk.
Fast forward through a year of training and grief and serious bonding (I do love a daddy’s girl), Kato and Mulan as a team take on the man who murdered their beloved family member. Of course, it doesn’t go quite as planned, and that is when Mulan Kato must take a trip to America and prepare to avenge her mother. That’s right, prepare. After two full volumes, I did not get to see her avenge her mom, hook up with the new Green Hornet, or find out why she has a thing for her car, Black Beauty.
However, they were great reads for some focused background on our current gal who exchanges quips with Masquerade.
Kato’s personality is much the same as we see in SoS as she refers to herself as “a badass ninja chick.” We see her learn a few lessons about trust the hard way and we see her first kill, albeit accidental. I’m going to toss out a solid guess that from these two deaths is where we see the hardened, no-nonsense woman ready to jump into battle as one of the SoS generals.
And now, it’s good times for all.