Brian Michael Bendis
October 17, 2003 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Writer-artist David Mack is one of the geniuses of the medium — and to discover Mack, one should start with his seminal work, ”Kabuki.”

The graphic-novel series, now in its fifth collection, is a fully realized piece of futuristic sci-fi in which the sci-fi is treated almost as an afterthought. Kabuki is a female operative of the Noh, a Japanese government agency that secretly polices society. Deeply affected by the violent death of her mother, she can face the world only behind the security of a mask. The series follows Kabuki on her quest to come to terms with her history, her culture, and the powers she serves. It’s a tale of self-actualization, with lots of blood.

”Kabuki” employs a dizzying array of art media: photo-realistic painting, abstract expressionism, collage, photography, art deco design, and childlike scrawling. There is more graphic innovation and experimentation on one page of ”Kabuki” than most comic-book creators attempt in an entire year. The work of David Mack offers as unique an experience as can be found in any medium.

Brian Michael Bendis is a coexecutive producer of MTV’s Spider-Man cartoon and the writer of Ultimate Spider-Man and Ultimate X-Men for Marvel, and Powers for Image.

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