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Madman Atomic Comics #6

Posted: Thursday, February 7, 2008
By: Matthew J. Brady

Michael Allred
Michael Allred, Laura Allred (c)
Image Comics
ďCrushed in the Court of the Crimson KingĒ

I hate to give a bad review to a Mike Allred comic, since heís one of my favorite artists, but, wow, was this a bad comic. Can this really be what Allred intended for the ďMadman in spaceĒ story that he has been talking about doing for years? He always seemed so excited about that story in interviews over the years, but now that heís gotten to do it, it seems rushed, incoherent, and boring. What happened?

As we saw last issue, Madman and several of his teammates in The Atomics were whisked off to space to save the universe from the menace of a villain named The Crimson King. This issue, they finally get around to fighting him, then defeat him in what seems like it should be an important moment. But it just doesnít work. Maybe if we had learned some details about this Crimson King character, we might understand what was going on. And maybe if we had seen our heroes prepare to join the battle and try to work together, we might understand what theyíre trying to do, but instead they mostly stand around reacting to how crazy everything is. Then they join forces to defeat the bad guy, but this epic moment, which was foretold in prophecies and whatnot, barely even registers as a struggle for them, and the situation is resolved in a few pages of swirling colors with little actual explanation. Itís all rather disappointing.

Maybe I wouldnít be so harsh about this if I didnít see some promise in the story. Early on, there is a scene in which the team all dies horribly at the hands of the villain. Since this is obviously not the true end of our heroes, itís not a surprise when their death is revealed to be an illusion. But then Allred follows this up with a scene in which a character actually dies, but it is so rushed and unemotional (not to mention hard to follow, which isnít usually a problem with Allredís artwork), it barely registers. I wasnít even sure it actually happened until the final scene, which confirms the fact morbidly in another bizarre bit that was probably supposed to have some real emotional weight but rushes through things and only confuses.

And then thereís the final bit, in which another tragedy seems to occur, one that should have some real emotional impact on both the reader and the characters. But not only does it come out of nowhere, what actually happens isnít clear, and Madman, the character most affected, seems to barely even notice. I really donít understand it, and I donít expect it to stick, but maybe it will be explained (or ignored) in future issues.

But I still canít completely ignore the issue, because the art is still gorgeous. Allred delivers some breathtakingly beautiful scenes, full of crazy alien technology and architecture, with some freaky creatures to boot. And Laura Allredís colors are typically astonishing, lending bright hues to the pervasive weirdness. The book is a pleasure to look at, even if the story makes little sense.

I dunno, maybe Allred just lost interest in the cosmic space story and decided to rush through it in order to get his characters back to Earth. Thatís what Iím hoping, anyway. The alternative means more pretty pictures but less sense, and thatís a combination that will soon drive me away from the book. And if even loyal Allred followers like me are gone, that probably wonít leave anybody else.



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