Comic Review: The Maxx: Maxximized #1

The Maxx: Maxximized #1
Written by Sam Keith and William Messner-Loebs
Art by Sam Keith
Colors by Ronda Pattison
Cover by Sam Keith
IDW Publishing
Release Date: November 27, 2013
Cover Price: $3.99

In the alleyways of the violent and corrupt city lives a behemoth of a man who calls himself The Maxx, clad in a purple superhero jump suit with monstrous yellow gloves each adorned with a large spike. The Maxx fancies himself a protector of the city’s citizens targeted by thugs, though his social caseworker Julie just sees him as another helpless soul that she must contend with. And in the shadows of the city lurks the evil and manipulative Mr. Gone, a master of the pint-sized cannibalistic imps known as Isz.

Mr. Gone sees the hidden truths of The Maxx and Julie and their connection to the Outback, a wild and untamed mystical land connected to the real world and filled with mystical caves, flying dragons, the Leopard Queen, and is the home of the Isz. Mr. Gone’s torments in both the real world and in the Outback will bring both The Maxx and Julie face to face with this hidden truth, if they live long enough to see it.

Originally published in 1993 as one of the first series under the then brand new Image Comics, The Maxx deals with frequently uncomfortable material that is dulled only slightly by the dark witty humor in the writing and dynamic artwork. The series touches on mental illness, assault, rape (albeit off panel), murder, and a complete lack of sympathy for the world’s inhabitants and that is just in the first issue. Despite all that though, The Maxx is a compelling series with multiple layers, literally, as it hop scotches between fantasy adventure and harsh reality, while the layouts of each page provide an intriguing and visual metaphor to the universe’s skewed perception.

Now, on the 20th anniversary of The Maxx, IDW Publishing is providing a brand new look at the series, which aside from a few dated pop culture references, has aged extraordinarily well. With Maxximized, Sam Keith has gone back to the original artwork and had them rescanned for this publication. More importantly, the entire series has been recolored by incoming colorist Ronda Pattison (Steve Oliff and Reuben Rude provided colors on the original release) which Keith personally supervised.

This is not just a “remastering” in that the pages have been cleaned up. No, this is a brand new from-the-bottom-up paint job along with higher resolution ink and line work detail that was lost in the original publication. There are instances of complete palette changes on some of the pages, when compared between the Image and IDW versions, and all of the art really pops off the page and is much more dynamic than the original version. It is important to note that none of the dialogue or ink artwork was altered for this republication.

In addition to the coloring, Keith has provided a new painting for the cover artwork which he will continue to do for the remainder of the series, and he has also written and afterword providing his personal insight on the genesis of this project.

For original fans of the series, even if you already have the complete Image run stashed away in longboxes, The Maxx: Maxximized is still worth picking up as it provides a much more true-to-form realization of the comic that Keith had envisioned. It is also just pleasant trip down memory lane, and will sure to bring a smile to your face. However, to really drive the impact of this version home, be sure to read this alongside a copy of the Image version.

This is a look back into the exploding world of comics of the early 1990s, where creator-owned comics were bending and breaking the rules of what comics should be and experimenting with ideas without publisher and editorial interference. If you have never read this series before, but may be familiar with it in name or perhaps with the MTV animated version of The Maxx, do yourself a favor and pick this up.

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