|Publisher||IDW Publishing, Ted Adams|
|First published||September 28, 2016|
|Cover date||September 2016|
|Written by||Brandon Easton|
|Art by||Tony Vargas|
|Colors by||Jordi Escuin|
|Letters by||Chris Mowry|
The Krusade begins.
In a remote military base, Miles Manheim observes Matt Trakker, Gloria Baker, Julio Lopez, and Brad Turner as they prepare for deployment. As the M.A.S.K. team mobilizes, Matt has his doubts about their readiness, but Manheim announces his faith in them, all the while reflecting inwardly on their failures. They will serve him well in the upcoming fight, but after they've served their purpose, he'll happily "retire" them...
One year earlier, ten recruits arrive for Project Spectrum: Matt Trakker, Gloria Baker, Julio Lopez, Brad Turner, Vanessa Warfield, Sylvester "Sly" Rax, Bruno Sheppard, William Evans, and Marcia Watkins. Manheim explains that Project Spectrum is a secret government training program designed to find pilots that can protect the world from new threats, and remarks that "nobody washes out". After this first meeting, the various recruits begin to mingle, with Turner and Lopez discussing what Manheim meant by "no wash outs", whilst Rax tries to hit on Baker, who doesn't appreciate his cheap sleight-of-hand tricks. Trakker, meanwhile, thanks Manheim for getting him out of hot water with the law, who in turn asks that Matt simply live up to his potential—if not for him, then for Matt's father. Manheim then meets with Dr. Armand Singh, formerly the Cobra scientist known as Dr. Mindbender, whom Manheim has recruited to help psychoanalyze his recruits.
As training proceeds, Manheim quickly takes note of Vanessa and Sly, the former becoming his right-hand woman, while expressing disappointment in Matt's lack of killer instinct. During the first field test of Project Spectrum's transforming vehicles, Evans and Watkins are killed when the cars are pushed too hard and explode. Trakker, Baker, and Lopez are shaken by seeing two colleagues die, while Sly and Bruno are willing to accept death as an occupational hazard. Matt confronts Manheim, who responds with a story of his time as a prisoner of war—if he could withstand a year's daily torture, the death of two willing volunteer can be chalked up as collateral damage.
Later, Manheim presents the troops with their specialized weapons: Masks that grant the wearer special abilities. Trying to hit on Gloria again, Sly accidentally fires a harpoon from his "Stiletto" Mask, which she is able to catch and send flying back to him. Before it can do any harm, Trakker blasts it with the "Spectrum" Mask.
Manheim then sends the recruits to their final test in the Canadian Rockies, making it from the end of a moving train to the engine. Aboard, Bruno and Matt see that the train cars' construction makes them liable to explode any minute, and then discover a car full of people. Matt tries to save them as car begins to explode, but the others pull him back and deatch the end cars, telling him there's nothing he can do. In truth, the people were a hologram created by by Brad's "Eclipse" Mask, a test by Manheim to see how the recruits reacted to variables outside their control. Manheim reflects on the truth of the story he told Matt—he did give out under torture, causing his allies' deaths, but murdered his captors in return—before convening with Vanessa. Only Sly and Bruno are fine after the test, with the others displaying demoralization that Manheim knows will make them easier to control. As his right-hand woman compliments his cunning, Manheim remarks that he has more yet to come, looking at a screen that says "V.E.N.O.M."...
(Numbers indicate order of appearance.)
"Scarlett, this is my special-ops team leader, Matt Trakker. Codename: Spectrum. And this is the rest of the team. They're known as Mobile Armored Strike Kommand!"
- —Miles Mayhem, failing to explain why "command" is spelled with a "K".
- The flashback portion of this issue starts one year prior to the events of Revolution. Whilst "Secret Raiders" implied that technology from the captive Blitzwing would be used to create M.A.S.K.'s vehicles, this large time gap places the beginnings of Project Spectrum before that prelude issue. Instead, it seems, Blitzwing simply allowed the vehicles to be finalized—perhaps fixing the error that caused the deaths of Evans and Watkins?
- Mannheim's military background was established previously by his appearance as part of the Adventure Team in the Revolution prelude "Secret Raiders".
- The prototype Masks and vehicles share the exact same design as their original 1985 counterparts.
- The first two vehicles to get test driven are the Gator and the Jackhammer, though the Gator's defense mode looks very different.
- After Mayhem explains the test that the recruits will undertake - starting in the back car of a train and making their way to the locomotive - Brad says "I've seen a movie like this." He's probably talking about Snowpiercer.
- Mayhem quotes Lopez as saying the prototypes were just "Cars from the eighties", when it was Matt who questioned the vehicles.
- This is corrected in the first trade collection for M.A.S.K.
- Word balloon placement makes it look like Sly Rax is mocking himself while trying on the Masks.
- Mayhem's flashback depicts him with white hair, despite the fact that "Secret Raiders" (as well as issues of Revolutionaries) established a young Miles Mayhem as the red-headed Sea Adventurer.
- The Shark is miscolored orange on the final page of the issue, presumably due to confusion with the Gator that appeared earlier in the issue.
- The final scene of the issue is at odds with Revolution #2, in which Mayhem does not introduce Scarlett to the M.A.S.K. team until they have already set up shop in the basement of G.I. Joe headquarters. Revolution also presented the V.E.N.O.M. recruits as members of the M.A.S.K. team, despite no indication of that in this issue.
- Oh wow, that is not how Schrödinger's cat works or what it's for. It's not about testing morality. Like, at all.
- It's not clearly stated in the story, so anyone unfamiliar with IDW's G.I. Joe may not realize that Dr. Armand Singh is the Cobra scientist Dr. Mindbender. However, right after referring to him with his given name in narration, Mayhem calls him "Doctor Bender", which is backed up by issue #1's character list, where his name is given as "Dr. Verstal Bender". Though the first trade collection for M.A.S.K. changed the name given in Mayhem's narration to "Dr. Verstal Bender", and the Hasbro Heroes Sourcebook entry for Dr. Mindbender later explained that "Verstal Bender" was a pseudonym Armand Singh adopted after the fall of Cobra, the way it's presented leads to a lot of confusion.
- Mayhem states that Julio and Rax's Masks both perform the same ability, which Julio (or Rax, or someone else, depending on who the word balloon is supposed to be attributed to) describes as "shrink non-living materials or make them much larger".... but Rax's Mask, Stiletto, proceeds to just fire a projectile with no apparent trace of shrinking or growing involved, as with its classic M.A.S.K. counterpart. It would take Stilleto's Hasbro Heroes Sourcebook entry to explain that Rax uses his mask in conjunction with a set of razor-sharp metal darts, which he grows and hurls at his opponents, but none of this is explained in the issue.
- Regular cover: Matt Trakker, Brad Turner on the Condor, Matt Trakker in the Thunderhawk, the Hurricane (which has not yet appeared in IDW continuity), and the Gator, by Tommy Lee Edwards.
- Subscription cover A: M.A.S.K. stands with their vehicles V.E.N.O.M.'s heads loom above, by Dan Schoening.
- Subscription cover B: Blank cover for sketches.
- Retailer incentive cover: Matt Trakker, Gloria Baker, Julio Lopez, Sly Rax, Vanessa Warfield, Bruno Sheppard, and Miles Mayhem stand masked, by Ken Christiansen, part of an interconnecting image with the twelve other Revolution issues.