Kabuki opens her eyes as a brief blast of radio static from the Noh’s communication devices falls silent. Scarred, weakened, and isolated in stark and unfamiliar surroundings, her knowledge of the passage of time slips away. Kabuki has been taken into protective custody by Control Corps, the country’s most powerful secret intelligence service, and is now under close observation in a psychiatric ward. Without her mask and weapons, Kabuki must struggle to make sense of her life and her past under the microscope-like gaze of hospital orderlies and psychologists. Kabuki begins to connect to the world outside her own memories through secret communication with a fellow inmate, and soon discovers that the key to escape from the hospital may lie in her newfound ability to balance on the line between past and present, sanity and insanity.
Skin Deep is the second color volume of the Kabuki series, picking up stylistically right where Dreams left off, with a plot that provides Mack’s best balance so far between fractured introspection and explosive superhero-style action. In the afterword to Volume 5, John Sayles describes Mack’s repetitive use of images and textual themes as the creation of a new language loosely based on pictograms and associations. This symbolic alphabet, mirroring the kanji characters that scar Kabuki’s face, begins to come into play in Skin Deep, providing readers with a code to interpret double meanings behind the printed words on each page.