MADMAN AND THE ATOMICS VOL 1

MADMAN AND THE ATOMICS VOL 1
Written and Drawn by Mike Allred
Published by
Image Comics

Early on in the MADMAN saga, Frank ran afoul of a group of street beatniks, and that encounter left them covered in alien goop that has altered their cellular structure and give them strange powers (it also left one of them as the mate of an alien bride who was going to eat him after they mated- apparently that planet never heard of RU-486). Now, those altered by the goop have drawn back together and become their own sort of twisted super-team, though they really don’t do a lot in the way of battling a lot of evil. Instead, they do just about as much of squabbling and loving each other, making this a cross between X-MEN and DAWSON’S CREEK (to use an entirely outdated reference).

Anyone who knows anything about comics knows that Mike Allred is one of the true titanic talents working in the field, as he took the world by storm with MADMAN back in the 90s, and the rain still hasn’t stopped falling. When the fifteen issues of THE ATOMICS contained in this omnibus album came out, they were first a bit of a curiosity, as many fans wondered why he would take his full focus off of Frank (Madman) and his adventures. But the answer was easy to find: ATOMICS gave him a much broader palette to paint with. There are stories here that MADMAN simply could not tell.

As with all his work, Allred’s art is striking and vivid, aided and abetted by the superior color work of his wife Laura Allred. The characters pop off the page, and when they hurt, physically or emotionally, the hues deliver that punch. This is the third massive MADMAN paperback collection Image has issued, and I think it’s my favorite to date. These books have been a gift to comics fans everywhere. Do yourself a favor and pick one up to see what the fuss is all about.

Marc Mason

PAX ROMANA 1

PAX ROMANA 1
Written and Drawn by Jonathan Hickman
Published by
Image Comics

In 2053, the secret to time travel is unlocked, and the world’s history is about to be re-written. How? The scientists who succeed in doing so are devout Catholics and turn their research over to Rome. Thus, the papacy puts together a force of clerics and military men and gives them a one-way mission: go back to 312AD, shift the world’s developing course, and make sure the “proper” way of thinking becomes dominant that much sooner. This is the story now being told in secret to the King of the World, a 4-year old boy ascended to Roman power, in a wildly divergent timeline than the one we know. But to even the most intelligent eye, it would seem that the time-traveling expedition didn’t achieve its goals quite as intended. The question then, is: what did happen to those who went back 2000 years to change history?

I made no secret of my absolute loathing for Hickman’s first book, THE NIGHTLY NEWS; it was a pedantic, whiny work, resembling nothing more than the ramblings of a college freshman who has just discovered who Che Guevara was. So I frankly expected very little from PAX ROMANA. So it is with great surprise that I sit here and tell you that this is a much more mature, assured story, and I was intrigued by it from page one. It really seems like Hickman has ironed some of the kinks out of his storytelling; there’s a flow to what happens here, and he avoids making value judgments about any of it, leaving the emotional response solely to the reader. That’s a sign of confidence, and I like it.

No question, I’m also a sucker for a good time travel story as well. And what interests me here, is that I don’t think this is a story where the genie will be put back in the bottle; it looks like Hickman is set on telling his story within an alternate history on a permanent basis. That makes for an engaging challenge, and I’m going to be watching carefully to see how successful Hickman can be in playing it out.

Marc Mason