"Is There Anybody Out There?"
Writer/Artists: Mike Allred, Laura Allred(c)
Humbleness is one of the things I appreciate in a writer. Mike Allred expresses the winning quality in his letter column for Madman Atomic Comics. He doesn't apologize for the premiere issue, nor should he. He however accepts the consequences and looks beyond sales to determine whether or not he succeeded. Mike Allred recognizes that his first issue of Madman was ill received by many reviewers on the web, not just me. In this issue he eases back a trifle, and the story benefits tremendously.
In the second issue, Allred reaffirms the fiction with which we are more familiar over the extremely depressing possibility that Frank inadvertently spread a plague that killed everybody on the planet because he in fact is one of the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse. That idea just stank, but from reading Allred's letter column, he truly believed that everybody would "get it," that nobody would be fooled into thinking that this was the new status quo on which new stories would be built. Allred apparently didn't realize that nihilism has once again taken over comics, and some of us expect the worse. Actually, I have been expecting the worst since the mid-nineties, but some readers' enthusiasm for a comic book universe they can appreciate has yet to be ground to a fine pulp.
The Allreds have essentially crafted an exquisitely illustrated and extraordinarily colored two-issue peyote trip, but this issue Mike Allred gives the reader hope. He contrasts Frank's nightmares, which thankfully turn out to be a trap set by "Dr. Mabuse," with scenes where his extended family worries over his altered state.
In later scenes, we see Dr. Flemm hovering over Frank and expressing concern that's quite revealing. Curiosity primarily motivates Dr. Flemm in the Madman Adventures, but in these scenes we see that he genuinely cares about Frank. As one may expect, Joe's emotions are a flood of love and warmth. This is what was missing from the previous issue; something that provides a connection to the characters. Caring about Frank depends in part that others care for him, which suggests to the reader that he's worth caring about.
Now that Allred has established the rules of the book, this latest volume of Madman looks like it will be getting much better and will have the same attention to characterization as previous volumes. That's something I can recommend, but the Allreds haven't gotten there yet.
What did you think of this book?
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