Sunday, June 10, 2007

Review - Madman Atomic Comics 2

By Michael Allred
Colors and Separations by Laura Allred, Letters by Nate Piekos
Published by Image Comics, $2.99

The first awesome thing about the 2nd issue of the MADMAN relaunch is that the entire first issue is reprinted inside of it -- granted, without dialogue and all on one page -- but it’s still a pretty cool recap. The second awesome thing about the 2nd issue of the MADMAN relaunch is that Madman is in it, and he’s all existential!

Ah, the mid-90’s … I was in high school, my three favorite comics were MADMAN, BONE and JOHN BYRNE’S NEXT MEN (!), and I had a secret crush on a redhead named Mindy. For various reasons, none of these things are true anymore. All the same, it’s great to see Mike Allred back with Frank Einstein and a book where he can tell any kind of story he wants to tell. My love for the Dark Horse-era MADMAN COMICS sprang from the giddy fun Allred dove into with every issue -- there were mutated street beatniks, time machines, giant robots, gelatinous cubes, and true love. It started to lose me around the time when Madman crossovers became more prevalent than regular issues of MADMAN -- there was MADMAN/NEXUS, MADMAN/THE JAM, THE SUPERMAN/MADMAN HULLABALLOO … but in the process, the emphasis ironically shifted from ginchy fun to existential melodrama. The book became less about Madman and his love Joe and more about Madman thinking about Madman.

Unfortunately, as fun as it is to see old friends back in action, the first two issues of MADMAN ATOMIC COMICS have been mired in setting up some new kind of status quo. The first issue told us that “everything we knew was wrong!”, but the second issue tells us that “wait, everything we knew is still sort of right!” Which leaves me asking, “okay, then what happens next?” It still looks and feels like a Madman story, but I’m left wondering what the story is. If it’s still “Frank Einstein tries to find himself,” then I’m left a little wanting. The back cover reminds me of Madman of old -- Mott from Hoople, the Puke, bad robots, clone caves -- if MADMAN ATOMIC COMICS finds its way back there, I might be rushing to the comics shop every few weeks like it was 1994 again.

I’d have to revisit some of the old MADMAN COMICS issues to compare, but the art style seems a lot … broader, if that makes any sense. The panels are bigger, there are a lot of two-page spreads, and the art-on-the-page flows like it’s in command of itself, instead of adhering to panel restrictions. I like that a lot, but in a few cases it made the word balloons hard to follow. Particularly in the two-page spreads, it wasn’t always clear if I should go strictly left-to-right, up-to-down, or somewhere in between. Eddie Campbell has posted a series of blogs on balloons and their placement that has made me think about the flow of information on a comics page in different ways, and the balloon-sprawl in this issue was a little distracting.

But it still feels -- like MADMAN always has -- that these are the comics Mike Allred most wants to make, and I'm glad he's making them again.

Tell me more: Michael Allred.

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