Or – “Things Get Even WEIRDER…”

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One of the most entertaining facets of Mike Allred’s Madman stories (and, indeed, most of the rest of his output as well) is that it’s not just another adventure story.  A Madman story could only take place with Frank Einstein as the main character, as his peculiarities drive the narrative, and his strange point-of-view makes even the most straightforward story a bit wonky.  Now, imagine that the story is already freaky-deakier than a night spent on Quaaludes in Amsterdam with Hunter Thompson, Austin Powers, and the guy who dreamed up Snuffleupagus, talking about the symbolism inherent in Darth Vader…  For some moments in life, you just have to siddown, strap in, shaddup and hold on.

Mad1.jpgPreviously, on Madman Atomic Comics: Frank Einstein, the Madman of Snap City, awoke to find himself in a nightmare world, an apocalyptic wasteland with only corpses for company.  After travelling through the vast wasteland, he was taken on a trip through his previous life, (as a soulless hired killer) his current incarnation as ‘wacky guy with wacky friends,’ and came to believe that he was actually the only person in the world, an insane God ruling over a world of contradictions and psychoses.  That, too, was a hallucination, but this time he found the center of the shrubbery maze, the evil Doctor Monstadt, who had trapped him within his own mind.  Thankfully, Frank’s friends sent a construct into his dream, in the form of childhood superhero idol Mr. Excitement, and travelled back to reality by symbolically traveling through the history of the cartoon idiom in a thoroughly entertaining and confusing manner.  Now, Frank has come back to what T-Bird dubbed ‘the really real world,’ only to find that he’s been rocketed into space in what would be his casket, with only his robot counterpart Astroman for company.  Luckily, this issue begins with Frank finally home, reunited with his beloved Joe…

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After a loving hug and kiss, Frank and Joe forgive each other (for dying and letting the other die, respectively) and Joe swears that she’ll never do it again.  “One thing’s for sure.  If I’m left with your lifeless body ever again, It’d take an ARMY to drag it away from me.”  Frank smiles and replies, “I appreciate your loyalty and dedication  But if my rotting corpse starts to stink up the place, I release you from your pledge.”  Heh.  Joe says she’s never been happier, but Frank ups the ante with one more wonderful moment…

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Yeah, it’s a dream…  Joe fades away, morphing back to the emotionless face of Astroman, who tells him he lost consciousness due to lack of oxygen.  Since it’s a flying coffin, Dr. Flem didn’t make room for food, water, an oxygen supply, even communications gear.  Since Astro can fly unaided through space, he’s going for help.

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Leaping into the void, Astroman hears Frank begin singing some sort of hymn, and remarks “In space, no one can hear you sing.”  Of course, since he says it in space, it’s doubly ironic.  A-Man quickly realizes that his batteries are nearly as empty as Frank’s lungs, and sets a course for Earth at maximum velocity, hoping beyond hope that his energy will last long enough to make it home…

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As Astroman floats, with nary a protein pill nor a helmet to put on, Frank continues sitting in his tin can, as there’s nothing he can do…  except hallucinate a rescue.  He sees what he believes to be his Joe, wearing a spacesuit, come to save him.  The image raises the visor of her helmet, and places something in his ear (probably not a little yellow fish) that allows him to understand her.  Turns out that it’s not only not Joe, it’s not a hallucination, and he savior introduces herself.

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Foofou?  Pronounced “foo-foo?”  Interesting choice of name, there.  She quickly inflates a bit of Bubble Yum, and she and Madman travel to her ship, which resembles nothing less than a mass of half-inflated balloons smooshed together.  She tells him that his coming was prognosticated (“Prog-whah?” says Frank…  Heh.) and that he is exactly where he is supposed to be.  She introduces Frank to the seer, a giant purple tree that looks like something out of a Charles Burns comic.  “Whelworne, great seer!  You were right as always…  I have brought you the First of the Four!”  Now, old-school Madman fans have heard that phrase before, though no explanation has ever been given…  As the tree tries to communicate with him, Frank surprises Haley by telepathically understanding what took her years to hear.

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Frank tells her that he wants to go home more than anything, but “I have a feeling if I don’t go with you, I won’t have a home to go to.”  Given Frank’s occasional psychic visions, I think I’d go with that feeling.  Haley explains that she comes from a far-off planet call Nehlog (I suspect an anagram, though I don’t know for what) and that it’s time for him to rest…

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Haley looks quite a bit like Audrey Hepburn in some of the shots…  As the gas encompasses him, Frank finds himself in an elaborate fantasy of horseback riding with Joe (hence the image up top) and finally awakes some time later, finding that he really does feel much better.  He is taken to the bridge, where his third-eye suddenly flares to life (not a euphemism, folks) as he sees an elaborate arrangement of planets and stars.  “Welcome to Celestia, the genesis of this Universal Cycle.” 

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You have to love Frank…  This issue was one of those “travelling between two points” stories that we get so much out of Brian Bendis, and while it wasn’t a bad piece of work, there wasn’t a lot of explanation as to what is actually going on.  I’m glad that we’re finally going to find out what ‘First of the Four’ means, but after last issue’s experimentation, I would have liked to have more of a narrative here.  Still, Mike Allred’s stories tend to just move of their own volition, without any real regard for the rules of drama that I learned in college, so I can’t be too surprised. 

Four issues into this storyline, I feel a bit adrift (although, from experience, I find that I’m almost always at this point four issues in) and I’m looking forward to finding out what’s really going on.  I love the art, as I do nearly everything that Mike draws, and the story has it’s points, but right now I’m not feeling the overall effect…  Maybe it’s me, maybe I’m not in a weird mood, but this issue kind of fell flat for me, ranking 2 out of 5 stars with the hopes that next issue either I or the story will be in a different place.

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The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture!

And a nice red uniform.

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1 Comment

  1. matt
    September 26, 2007 at 11:58 am — Reply

    woah thats a shit comic!

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