The Bat-villain gets a new focus from Lex Luthor to bolster his war on Justice, but is it enough to keep him a free man?

Black Mask: Year of the Villain 1
Written by Tom Taylor
Pencils and Inks by Cully Hammer
Colors by Dave Stewart

I’ve compared this Year of the Villain stuff to the 1990s event Underworld Unleashed, where demon Neron offers the villains of the world more power to defeat their enemies in exchange for their souls. Instead of a demon from hell offering them more power, now we have Lex Luthor trying to tip the scales toward Doom in his coming war with the Justice League.

Without a major archnemesis to his name, Black Mask gets the chance at his own one-shot to get his new lease on life from Luthor as he continues to cause trouble.

Writer Tom Taylor uses the issue to give the reader a little bit of backstory on Black Mask. Created in the 1980s, he’s had few moments where he rose above the level of a C-list Batman villain, but never anything that gave him and permanent sense of prominence. With his upcoming turn as the main bad guy in 2020’s planned Birds of Prey movie, raising the villain’s profile isn’t the worst idea.

Unfortunately, there’s nothing really special about the issue, other than Taylor’s drawing comparisons between the origins of Bruce Wayne and Roman Sionis, Black Mask’s alter ego: two young boys born into rich families who lost their parents. Bruce mourned his when they were murdered while Roman burned his because they were terrible to him.

Luthor’s plot to give Black Mask power moves the villain away from Gotham and down to Atlanta, where Batwoman has been making a home for herself since… I honestly have no idea when that move happened. The Bat-family has been in disarray during Rebirth with everyone going their own way. But Kate Kane gets tipped off about Black Mask’s presence by Rene Montoya – who has appeared as the female Question in the LOIS LANE series, so more continuity headaches for me – and the pair work to take him down.

But Black Mask’s new ability to take the face of others and stealing their lives gives him a means to escape.

I’m not sure how much this issue adds to the upcoming Justice/Doom War, or if it was just an attempt to raise the profile of Black Mask, but this felt like little more than a cash grab. Like the recent SINESTRO one-shot, the story felt like a throw-in. Maybe it’ll be consequential to the bigger picture, but this didn’t feel like it would be anything important.