Review: Madman Atomic Comics #16

by

Or – “The End Is Near…”

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Seems like only a week or so ago that I was psyched to see Madman and Mike Allred returning to comics, and now it looks like they’re going to be moving on again…  I really hate that so many of my favorite characters and creators aren’t able to maintain monthly status, but that’s probably the price I pay for liking such personal projects.  Either way, Frank Einstein and his friends are here for now, so we might as well dive in and enjoy the issue while we can.

Mad1.jpgPreviously, on Madman Atomic Comics:  Frank Einstein wasn’t a nice man before he died.  All the signs point to his life as Zane Townshend being one filled with moral turpitude and murder.  Luckily, his second life has worked out a lot better for him.  He has many friends (including the man who resurrected him and a giant alien named Mott the Hoople) as well as a loving relationship with Josephine Lombard, one of the hottest doodles I’ve ever seen.  He has worked with a super-team called the Atomics, and fought for all that’s ginchy.  Recently, he’s even managed to inherit Zane’s home in Snap City, where he and Jo have been setting up housekeeping…  Things are looking up for the Madman of Snap City, and if Frank Einstein’s history is any indicator, that means that things are about to get seriously weird.

We open in mid-concert this time around, as the Atomics (who, just like the Impossibles, are superheroes whose secret identity is of a band with EXACTLY he same name that they use in superheroics) rocks the house, and leave a young girl stunned and lovesick.  We flashback to find the girl, alienated from everyone at her school, finding her only connection in the music of the Atomics, and specifically lead singer Adam Balm.  She goes to every concert, listens to every album, reads every magazine article in the hopes of making him love her.  Then one night, the music ends… The Atomics have vanished.  She doesn’t know what caused it (the team took an extended journey into outer space that left Adam a mindless zombie.)  Her spare time is spent passing out flyers with Adam’s face on them, desperately searching for her lost muse.  And one afternoon, as suddenly as he left, Adam Balm returns to Snap City.  She tracks down a mysterious corpse-like man (who I’m sure I should know, but can’t quite picture) who offers to make her one with Adam, for a price.  Some months later, Adam, Frank, Jo and Adam’s girlfriend Luna observe the strange-zombie girl on the streets of the city, and decide that she’s not dangerous.  Adam tries to communicate with her, but the only thing she can say anymore is “Aaadaaaammmm.”  It’s a really touching and creepy vignette, not the usual sort of thing you find in a Madman comic.  Nicely done…

The second story is narrated by that selfsame Adam, who has returned from space a bit differet than before.  His mind has been reconstructed from the memories of his friends, but he knows that things are different.  “I am a new creature.  And I’ve insisted that they call me by my own name… I am Atom Bomb.”  Not entirely sure that I love that bit, actually.  Frank Einstein is seen onstage, rocking out on karaoke night while his friends and family watch.  Afterwards, the remaining Atomics try to convince him to become their lead singer, but he’s not sure he wants to be in front of crowds.  Immediately afterward, he is approached by two members of another rock band, The Gear (Mike’s real-life band, I might add) who also want him to replace their lost front man, in this case the son of Red Rocket 7, another Allred creation.  We are given the backstory on how Red disappeared, and Frank adjourns with his pals to the coffee shop, where he decides to take them up on their offer.  In so doing, he spills coffee into his lap, and races across the street to dunk himself in a fountain to cool off.  As his friends arrive with his clothes, Frank sheepishly replies, “Sorry about that.  It was very, very hot.”  Heh…

The primary reason to read a book like Madman is because of the personal involvement of the creators, but in this issue things felt a bit… odd.  Mike Allred admits in the letters page that he writes Madman from the first person, and that Frank Einstein is his alter ego, but having Frank end up as the lead singer of Mike’s real-life band seems a little bit self-indulgent.  The usual charm is there, but the second half of this issue felt a little forced.  I like that we’re finally getting a sequel to Red Rocket 7 (or at least a continuation of themes therein) but somehow the blatant utilization of Frank as Mike-analog felt a little incestuous.  Still, the art in this issue is phenomenal (Allred in the second story, and Joelle Jones, whom I’d love to see more from, in the second) and the charm of the first story is enough to overcome most of the objections I have about the second.  Madman Atomic Comics #16 earns a better-than-average 3 out of 5 stars.  As Frank Einstein moves on to a new phase of his life, and Mike Allred prepares to focus on his music and movie projects, I’m really going to miss the semi-monthly dose of Allred madness…  Here’s hoping that Madman maintains a presence in one form or another.

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