I’ve always heard that Mike Allred’s "Madman" work is good, but never picked it up for one reason or another (usually money and the lack thereof). Oh how foolish I was. May the comics gods forgive me this oversight, because “Madman Atomic Comics” #15 is one fun, fantastic issue.
Not much actually happens in this comic, but it’s the way in which not much happens that’s remarkable. Madman wakes up to find himself in a seemingly snow-filled environment, so what does he do first? Makes snow angels! His examination of the world yields surprising results, like discovering that the ‘snow’ is not snow, and that breathing is difficult. He encounters odd blobby monsters and dispatches one with his yo-yo. It’s all very straight forward and, almost, innocent.
What could be tedious is filled with wonder. As he goes through each step in figuring out this new world and how he got there, Madman is engaging and interesting. Allred takes several panels to show Madman testing the ‘snow,’ noting how it’s not cold, how it doesn’t fall but lingers in the air, and how it tastes awful, and it’s so well done. In another comic, a scene like that would have the reader skipping ahead, but Allred’s succinct writing and superb cartooning skills keep it interesting.
Almost all of the issue is narrated by Madman with little to no interaction with anyone else, another approach that could backfire, yet, somehow, doesn’t. The fight between Madman and the monster adds some excitement, but even that’s just another step in figuring out what’s going on. The character is so easy to relate to that it’s impossible not to get swept up in this mystery and wonder exactly what happened.
Allred’s art is at its usual high level. What’s really great is how expressive he makes Madman’s face, one that is seemingly very inexpressive. It’s an odd contradiction of design and execution since the face is so simple that it seems like there’s not much you can do with it, but Allred does everything with it. After the fight with the monster, the expression of exhaustion is perfect, as is the disgust at tasting the snow.
His panel layouts are very basic here, but that works with the nature of the story. Since the world is so blank and bland, aside from the blobby monsters, radical layouts would work against the story.
The ending of the plot is a little predictable and quick, but saved with cute and funny dialogue. It may be my first issue of “Madman Atomic Comics,” but it certainly won’t be my last.