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December 27, 2011

Image Reviews: Madman 20th Anniversary Monster HC

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Written by: Jeff
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Madman 20th Anniversary Monster HC
Writers/Artists: Mike Allred & Various
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $100

It’s hard to believe that Madman is 20 years old. I remember standing in a comic shop and seeing this strange, pop art on the cover of an obscure book. I was strangely drawn to it, even though my favorite books were squarely more popular. But the only regular “indy” book I ever picked up was Madman.

There was something quirky about it. A story about a mysterious man who goes on weird adventures was right up my alley. Now, 20 years later, I’ve been following these adventures of Frank Einstein, aka the Madman of Snap City, through his battle against the evil Mr. Monstadt, his joining of the super-group The Atomics, and most recently his existential space journey in the pages of Madman Atomic Comics.

Madman’s creator, Mike Allred, has been really good at marketing his hero, and this time, to celebrate the 20th anniversary, he’s releasing this huge hardcover, which includes an all-new story by Allred himself, an anthology of stories by other creators, and every Madman pin-up you can think of.

First, the story Allred includes is not one of his best. I was much more pleased with Frank Einstein’s earlier adventures, and less enthralled with the ones that are more mystical, where our cast of characters are sent to a strange place and are told the mysteries of the universe or something. This story really adds nothing to the larger story of Madman, and ends rather strangely. However, the art is Allred’s usual stellar quality. His pencils and inks, along with his wife Laura’s colors, continue to be dynamic and fun. He is a master of a single panel that includes continuous movement and action. If you are a fan solely of Allred’s art, then you’ll want to pick this up. But if you’re looking for a Madman story that will either allow you to jump onto the character’s history, or a continuation of the story, then this might not satisfy you.

The other short stories are by creators like Peter Milligan, Kyle McCullough, Erik Larsen, Eric Powell, and Frank Quitely. Most are forgettable, and try a little too hard to be quirky. Like Allred’s story, none really add anything to the character, but all are mostly homages to Allred.

The pin-ups are quite possibly the best thing about this book. Virtually every major artist in comics provides a pin-up in this book, from Todd McFarlane to Jeff Smith, Jack Kirby, and Frank Miller, this book has it all. There may not be a better collection of creators on one book. If you were to be introducing someone to comics, and wanted to show them the breadth of comic art, then this would be a great book to show them.

While this book is a great celebration of all that is Madman, I’m not sure it’s worth the $100. Unless you are a collector of big coffee table books, this one you might want to skip. If, however, you want something to show off, or if you’re just a completist, then you’ll want to shell out the bucks for it. This book has been pushed back until January, so you have some time to save up your Christmas money.

Jeff Jackson



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