Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Maxximum Nostalgia: IDW's Remastered Version Of THE MAXX, In Brief

Apologies, friends, for having fallen silent over the last month or so: I've been very sick, work has been hell, my work-after-work has been no less daunting, I've been very angry about things I have no control over, and lacked internet for several days. I hurt, I'm exhausted, and I'm pissed off...

So let's talk about Sam Kieth for a little while. Sam Kieth always cheers me up!

 Sam Kieth, in a nutshell.

"It's wet. Dark and wet. It's the kinda weather than penetrates - makes your skin feel itchy and oily. Dirty kind of, but real too... and that's good.

It's time for Cheers. Sam and Diane, Norm Peterson, the Coach - and then, after he died, Woody. I don't have a TV now, but that's okay. The shows in my mind are almost always better..."

- The opening narration of The Maxx. From memory, not quoting the book. And yes, I could go on.

I don't talk a lot about comics on the Kentai Blog. Not that I don't like comics - I do, have since I was a kid, and along with toys, video games, horror movies, heavy metal, sweets and chronic masturbation, never really "grew out" of it. I visit a semi-local comic shop almost every week, and there's a folder set up for whatever new crap Mrs. Kentai and I have incoming. I'm utterly fascinated by the concept of interlocking continuities written by different creators and drawn by different artists over the course of decades, and I've happily watched Bob Chipman's regular "Comics Are Weird!" episodes of The Big Picture* in lieu of my long-since expired childhood subscription to Wizard Magazine, just to remind myself how balls-out silly some of the comic storylines from the 60s and 70s really were. Comics are a fascinating, limitless artform that bridge the gap between graphic arts and narrative storytelling in a way no other medium has, and frankly, has no hope of doing in quite the same way. Comics can be fucking incredible, and the fact that they've somehow become the defacto source material for Summer Blockbuster franchises is both brilliant and confusing to me.

And yet, I don't consider myself a "comic guy". Not because I don't like comics, but because my focus tends to be a fairly narrow slice of what "comics" are in the first place. Most of the stuff I bring home are from specific artists and writers I've been recommended, or who did something so absurd that it caught my eye; crazy high-concept explorers like Ted McKeever and Rick Veitch, smarmy satirists like Mike Vosberg and Batton Lash, renegade-nihilist authors like Garth Ennis and Alan Moore are the sort of people that most grab me, and as such, that's what I buy, almost exclusively. I'm certainly open to suggestion - hell, just the other day I had a conversation with a friend about the Death in the Family arc that DC has pushed The Joker through... but even then, the only reason I paid it any mind was because I finally realized the art for the whole storyline was crafted by Greg Capullo, who's the sole reason I've got about 50 Spawn issues bought through the 90s when that was the only "regular" series I consistently picked up.

In other words, I'm the equivalent of someone who "likes movies", but only watches movies made by Terrence Malick, Rob Zombie, Tsukamoto Shinya and William Friedkin - a talented and laudible, but ultimately very limited sampling of voices that are a small, curious force in the industry at large. (That's not to say I don't do that with movies to a large degree, as well... but that's neither here nor there for now.) I like the comics that I like, and while they're certainly not the most outre or obscure work out there, I don't think my personal opinion or experience is "good enough" to recommend or compare it to more noteworthy or understood voices in that industry. Much like with visual novels, Indonesian exploitation movies or the works of Mike Oldfield, I know they're awesome, I just don't know enough to have a particularly noteworthy opinion on it.

That said, Sam Kieth and Bill Mesner-Loebes' THE MAXX is fucking incredible stuff. For those who only know Image Comics now as the eclectic publisher of stuff like Fables or Saga, I can actually remember when the company formed about 20 years ago, essentially as a reactionary mass-migration of Marvel artists who felt they weren't given the creative freedom they earned. For all the shit I give comics at the time for being inherently goofy (and only sometime self-aware of it), understand that I have nothing but sympathy for the artists behind them; they're kept to a tight leash by big publishers with air-tight contracts, paid slave wages per page, and  effectively anything they've created becomes the de-facto property of their boss, regardless of how much of themselves they put into it. I won't defend the silly schlock that most of Image's creators put out, but I'll acknowledge that they had every right to splinter away from Marvel for having given them a number of successful runs without getting any of the artistic flexibility or commercial success they should have seen for having done so.

Image became a massive success as the industry was going through a particularly weird time; the crash of the market in the 1990s is well documented unto itself, but the short version was kids were less interested in spending allowance on comics than they used to be, and adults were lured back into the marketplace by two factors; a newly found sense of self-importance brought about by "adult" storylines helping grown-ups who had 'matured' out of the medium, as well as rampant news stories about how nostalgic fanboys were spending a literal fortune on rare comics from their youth, which led normal people to assume that if they picked up issue number one of some new, sure to be a hit character, they'd have a fortune on their hands in a year or two.

This led to an industry trying to cater to both sides at once - an inflated focus on sex and violence coupled with an obsession with introducing new and killing off old characters, hoping that one of those big shocking twists would finally pay off... short version is, it didn't. Because comic shops had become a fairly common installation - many of them actually surviving off of sales of trading card games, video game rentals, science fiction memorabilia and what have you -  they printed hundreds of thousands of copies of everything, and when it became obvious that nobody was ever going to be nostalgic for Wetwork, the market basically cannibalized itself. Marvel and DC, still the undisputed industry titans, hit such hard times that they were eventually sold off to Disney and Warner Brothers, respectively, to stave off outright closure. Needless to say, that's had a pretty profound impact on how "comic heroes" are seen now, versus twenty years ago. But that's not the focus for today, and I'm sure if you use the power of Google you can find a far more comprehensive version of what happened. I'd say that MovieBob did a good job, but that would imply that I wanted you to watch anything MovieBob's made, and... yeah, like I said, just use Google.

A guy who literally couldn't draw feet was a goddamn rockstar.
As I've said a hundred times before; fuck the 90s.

Anyway, Image Comics was the ideal sort of company to fill this void. Todd McFarlane, Erik Larsen, Rob Liefield and several others simply upped and left the crappy contracts Marvel had put them under, offering creators the rights to their own characters and a dramatically improved percentage of the proceeds; McFarlane's Spawn became the poster-child of 90s mainstream comics in general, literally being a superhero who lived in the alleys of New York with the homeless, his face disfigured and rotten on account of him literally being a demon from Hell. That wasn't the exception for a "superhero" genre entry circa 1995 - that was the ideal.

They spun a successful media empire from Spawn alone, which left the creators to effectively do whatever the hell they wanted to. Erik Larsen focused on the savagely biting and delightfully tasteless parody The Savage Dragon, Todd McFarlane made enough money with his popular HBO animated series and trend-setting action figure line to buy award winning baseballs like it was going out of style, Mark Silvestri's cult-hit Witchblade rose above its seemingly exploitative exterior to gain legitimate critical appeal... and Rob Liefield sucked harder than ever before. Fun fact, but Silvestri was so convinced that Liefield was a con-man who'd sink the Image Comics shop that he requested that he keep his rights separate from Image, but use them as a publisher. The rest thought he was being paranoid, but told him to do what made him happy, which formed Top Cow Entertainment (because, talented or not, Silverstri's not above a good tit joke). The bizarre turn of events was that Liefield was so convinced that he could convince Spielberg to make a movie off of his characters that he did end up costing the company a fortune by simply not drawing comics

Pictured: The Darker Image #1 cover inks.
Not Pictured: Genuine Self Awareness

Most notable to this discussion was a proposed miniseries called "Darker Image", which was published very early on in Image's lifespan in late 1993. Sam Kieth, Rob Liefeld and Jim Lee were each given 8 pages to introduce a new character of their choosing. The plan - supposedly - was for Darker Image to run 4 issues giving all three creators a chance to tell a complete 32 page story, thus theoretically inciting readers who may have only been interested in one story to consider the other two, and thus cross-promoting their own characters in a blatantly incestuous feedback loop. For whatever reason, issue 2 never materialized, and The Maxx became the only one of the three featured heroes to get his own regular comic series. Having read both Liefeld's "Bloodwulf" and Lee's "Deathblow", trust me, we didn't miss much by these two being lost to the sands of time.

It'd be unfair to not mention MTV's "Oddities" cartoon series from 1995, which in turn elevated The Maxx from a cultish comic icon to having a substantially more mainstream profile... even if "Mainstream" meant "Cartoons for stoned twenty-somethings on at 2 AM after a Cribs marathon". Keep in mind, this was long before [adult swim] turned that notion into a nightly programming block, and everyone figured South Park was going to end in a season or two. Regardless, Sam Kieth evidently spent two days a week in Los Angeles overseeing the production, which likely explains why it's so faithful to the source material, and why things like voice casting and soundtrack choices fit so perfectly. A number of cameos from fellow Image heroes, including The Savage Dragon and Pitt, had to be re-written over licensing concerns (some were accomplished more smoothly than others), and the abrupt end around issue 11 - with its own little epilogue that goes in a completely different direction from what the comic would follow - left far more questions than answers.

There was also an audio-drama/soundtrack tape released in 1993.
Covers issue 1-3, apparently. Wonder if this is worth tracking down...

It's worth noting that, as fantastic as the TV show is, some of the more complex layouts - such as when the cursed Jungle Queen and Mr. Gone have their competing monologues as Julie escaps using an Is tooth - establish how impossible it was to properly and accurately transplant every word of the source material into a new medium. Honestly, until I got the issue 2 and could read the disparate conversations as written, I could never fully follow Mr. Gone's dialogue here, and as that's explaining the premise in ways that'll only become clear later on with more info, that's... kind of a big problem... but, what works far outweighs what doesn't, and to this day the only thing that drives me crazy is that the spot-on mix of nihilist snark and and petulant frustration coming out of Mr. Gone's mouth is left anonymous. Guess whatever voice actor on staff wasn't interested in being known as "the pot-bellied, mean spirited serial rapist in that cartoon about the big purple hobo". My, how things have changed. I bet nowadays they'd want to cram Jackie Earle Hayley in there. Anyway, as good as the TV show is, if you like it, you should absolutely read it.

For over a decade, the only option for the animated series was a two-hour VHS tape that spliced the 11 episodes into a single two-hour movie, trimming some content for time and swapping out some songs they didn't have the rights to for home video - most notably, "I Want to Marry A Lighthouse Keeper" from A Clockwork Orange had to be substituted for a cheeky sound-alike. Otherwise, they actually did a surprisingly decent job of making the whole serialized tale feel like a single, solid feature, even with the unfortunately abrupt ending. These days is selling the entire, unedited TV series on a two-disc DVD-R set in generally better quality than I expected, but the soundtrack is still edited, and a pair of dual-layered DVDs might have helped avoid some massive macroblocking during a few of the fast paced sequences. Understand that pre-DVD music licenses were never given a second thought, so as frustrating as the soundtrack substitutions are, it's something we're largely just going to have to live with, or bootleg our way around forever.

By the time the industry had eaten its own kidneys to survive, Image Comics inadvertantly found a new direction when horror author Robert Kirkman literally tricked his editor into publishing yet another George Romero inspired zombie story... you probably never heard of it, unless you're literally everyone on planet fucking Earth. That shift towards more genuinely serious (but still "genre" influenced) and intentionally transgressive storytelling has been their bread and butter for the last decade or so, and couldn't be any further removed from the equal parts wonderful and horrible wasteland that was the 1990s comic scene... a scene that The Maxx would somehow both rise above and sink to the very depths of, all at the same time.

And yes, I owned this. It was a parody. I think.
The 90s were a weird time, trust me.

The Maxx was a curious beast on a lot of levels, specifically because it was created explicitly as a work of satire. The 1980s ushered in the age of "Gritty" superheroism thanks to the one-two punch of Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns and Alan Moore's Watchmen, which set the stage for Spawn and similarly po-faced and dead serious "Xtreme" anti-heroes who fought cyborg gorillas to somehow seem like a legitimately great idea. The Maxx, however, was sort of the self-aware antithesis of everything this era had going for it; a hulking brute in purple spandex with deformed "claws" for hands who doles out violence as justice, he was too terrified to take off his own mask and look at his own face for fear of what he might find underneath. He mumbled dramatic Rorshach-esque narration to himself, not realizing his enemies could hear every word. His only friend in the world was Julie, his freelance social worker, whom he was convinced he protected in her own dreams where she was the Frazetta-esque Leopard Queen and he was finally what he convinced himself he was; a hero. Through it all they were attacked and mocked by the wicked sorcerer Mr. Gone, who attacked using the "isz" - cannibalistic phallic nightmares, whom need only put on human clothes before the outside world ignores them completely. One entire issue was drawn in the style of a Saturday Morning Cartoon complete with blatant Dr. Seuss writing, while another was dedicated to a depressed teenage girl considering committing murder on her treacherous boyfriend, only to realize that licking her wounds beside Maxx in the filth of the city was marginally more appealing. Early issues had a propensity toward cross-overs featuring Pitt and Savage Dragon - similarly bonkers and experimental works Image was pimping at the time - though the uniquely... depressing quality of the hero himself meant his cross-overs into other universes were typically brief and meant more as a joke than anything.

The Maxx wasn't a superhero: He was a pointed, frustrated dismissal against the notion of superheroes. That's nothing particularly new or even unique - as I've likely mentioned, I adore The Brat Pack and generally like The Boys, both of which are brutal, violent, fatalistic rejections that humanity could ever be inherently good, but... The Maxx is a bit more low-key in its commentary, suggesting that even people who do want to be good to those around them often lack the basic tools to help themselves. To perhaps best sum up what made it so endearing, Wizard Magazine gave away an "Issue 1/2" promo, which - rather than just being the first chapter trimmed down for length - was an original story about two adolescent boys, telling each other stories about how they figure "The Maxx" is either a tormented loner who fights for justice over a burning sense of guilt for having been on the wrong side of the law for so long, or a gadget toting wise cracking super detective with a snappy sidekick and a costumed nemesis he thwarts every month. A massive homeless man tells the boys that the reality is far less glamorous than either; "The Maxx", as he calls himself, was just a nobody who got lucky, and was "changed" by an experience he couldn't explain, and now lives on the streets, unable to use his brute strength to prevent crimes and unable to hold down a job or have any 'real' friends. He's too afraid to take off his own mask and see who he really is anymore - just a crazy, scared jerk, slowly losing his grip on reality, and unable to make anyone around him feel better off. The Maxx was closer to veterans who lost a part of their mind in a trench in some god-forsaken shithole and never got the help they needed to get their shit back together than any sort of tormented arbiter of justice. The kids shrug off the bum's story as too depressing. The story ends with the "bum" revealing his massive, powerful claws to scare off a crackhead who decides the boys would make an easy target, and without wanting to shatter the kids' illusion of what a "hero" really is, he's a nobody their mother wants them far away from moments later.

Wait, this actually came out?!
FUCK! Now I need one...

It's sad, it's funny and it's so dense with self-loathing and bitter irony that it's hard to take it as anything but creator Sam Kieth reveling in how absurd he finds the very notion of "superhoeroes" existing in the real world. Kieth, mind you, was popular for his work on X-Men before he jumped ship to Image, so he's had plenty of time to mull these concepts over and pull them apart, stripping the core concept down to its bones and asking why even those were necessary over time. The book wasn't all jokes, which is why it's such an insidious, captivating little trip down the rabbit hole. Perhaps the most notable proof being the presence of Mr. Gone, a cryptic wizard of powers not quite properly explained who's capable of traversing both the dream worlds that may or may not be "real", and of manipulating the world we all live in, his crime is literally that of serial rape; he has no master plan to dominate the world, no evil  monster to summon. He's just a bastard who hurts other people to amuse himself.

He begins as a cloak-wearing nemesis, gets decapitated... and then shit gets weird once we realize that "Mr. Gone" is actually the physical personification of a depressed teenaged girl's emotions towards her estranged father. And by the way, his decapitated head keeps on taunting them, because if Mr. Gone is literally the phantom of emotional and sexual abuse (he is), ignoring it doesn't magically make it disappear. It becomes clear about 8 issues in, once the guest-spots stop, that Sam Kieth is using The Maxx more as a way to explore a psycho-analysis of his own personal manias and fears, using the book's story as a sort of shock therapy for some deeply seated and uncomfortable explorations into the purely emotional damage caused by poor familial relationships, sexual abuse, isolation and self-hatred. Maxx isn't a hero because he doesn't save anyone; he's as emotionally damaged as everyone else around him, and the fact that he could, theoretically, destroy Mr. Gone ultimately means nothing, since - as wicked and horror inducing as he might be - he's also the only son of a bitch who knows what the hell is going on around them.

How much of this is Kieth's own life versus him exploring bigger, grimmer concepts that he figures would be universal to an audience who doesn't know him... I'm not entirely sure. Truth be told we get glimpses of how he distorts and plays with his own reality in the somewhat recently published The Worlds of Sam Kieth artbook, but his actual past is still something of a mystery, save for the fact that he evidently married a woman twice his age when he was 15, and largely refuses to talk about his life before his 20s. I don't want to press a man I've never met for details on what traumas and fears shaped him... I'm only curious, because I can't think of any other piece of art - graphic storytelling or otherwise - which was so wholly obsessed with the concept of emotional pain as a driving force for life itself. Not to say that the books come off as particularly preachy or self-aggrandizing; Kieth and his co-writer Bill Mesner-Loebes have enough of a sense of humor and a sense of self-awareness that even the darkest and most poignant bits of storytelling seem to be aware of how ridiculous they are, and only ask that the viewer take the material at face value, not necessarily take them completely seriously. This is, after all, a universe in which you can learn to slip into other people's subconscious dreams.

Several years into the book's publication they explored The Origins of Mr. Gone, quite literally spelling that out on the cover like you'd expect on a silver age superhero book; the story is one of childhood abuse, self-loathing, denial and, eventually, an attempt at redemption to those he hurt. One of those pages involves a woman he raped showing up to his house, screaming and slapping him for hours on end, the two stopping for sandwiches... and and then she continues to abuse him  until she decides to go home. When she stops showing up, he feels worse, because now he's alone yet again. It's completely fucked up, and Mr. Gone himself knows it, but is disappointed when she works it out of her system, as it means he's once more alone without even the satisfaction of paying whatever due penance he can offer. The Maxx may have started as a commentary om the increasingly grim and self-important wave of adolescent heroism as grotesque power fantasy overtaking the comics industry from the area in which it was written, but realistically, The Maxx is more creator Sam Kieth using his talents as a visual storyteller to try and avoid paying for anti-depressants; every character within that universe is emotionally damaged or unhinged, be it via depression, schizophrenia, multiple personality disorder or violently rejection sexual orientation, and it's telling that once Kieth grew tired of the cast he turned to one-shot stories that played out like extended versions of the Gimp scene from Pulp Fiction crossed with an episode of Dr. Phil by way of A Clockwork Orange. The "Final Issue" is a frustrating mess, but having crafted two very disparateworlds, he basically acknowledged that he had told all the stories about David, Julie, Mr. Gone and Sarah he could muster, so while the ending is the most infuriatingly anti-climactic downer ever made until Takashi Miike's Koroshiya-1, it seems... almost appropriate. To quote Mr. Gone, "And so our story ends, Doc... Not with a bang, or even a whimper, but with a THWACK."

Infuriatingly enough, it's been all but impossible to catch up on everything Kieth published after The Maxx ended in 1998. Before credit cards were a thing my younger self had any meaningful access to, my access to comics were limited to a shop that closed around 2000, which left me unable to get his evidently even more obtuse and psychologically-driven work since, including Four Women, My Inner Bimbo, Ojo and Zero Girl... which, of course, are now out of print, difficult to find, and going for prices I just don't feel compelled to pay for them. I did finally find my Scratch! comics, which are an oddity unto themselves;it looks like Sam Kieth pitched an original miniseries about a werewolf, and DC's answer was "Sounds, uh... sounds like we could do that. If, y'know, maybe there were more Batman involved?"

The 00s were weird, too.
Just in a very different way.

Anyway, the reason I bring all of this up is because after several years of the trade-back collections being impossible to come by, IDW is reprinting The Maxx - well, not simply reprinting, but releasing a sort of 'Remastered' edition known as THE MAXX: MAXXIMIZED. I didn't know much about it when I saw the title, I just knew I needed it, and asked the local shop I haunt about once a week to grab any and all of the hardcover printings they could get - well, all of them under the "human priced" category, at least. There's an incredible looking 'Artists Edition' of issues 1-6 in a massively oversized printing in all of Sam Kieth's raw, unfinished, scribbled glory... but that's $125, and was sold out long before I knew it existed. The first 8 chapters in the "normal" hardcovers, which are in color and have all the dialogue in place, will set you back less than $50. This series has been out of print for years in any format for years now, so if you've never had a chance to read it - or if you're like me and have a combination of missing back issues and OCD about having all copies in the same goddamn format - it seems like a damned fine place to start. IDW's glossy, oversized hardcovers are a damn fine way to wallow in this beautifully crazy stuff anyway.

Sam Kieth gave an interview or two before the Maxximized version started releasing, and for a while was implying that he might be adding new pages to fix continuity issues and settle some questions he felt were never adequately answered in its original run. According to the introduction in the first hardcover, there isn't any "additional" material... so either we're getting new pages later, or Kieth eventually changed his mind. The Maxx was never particularly cohesive, so while I wouldn't mind that anticlimactic train-wreck of a final issue being re-worked slightly, it's not going to suddenly change the overall tone and scope in a massive way. Unlike The Brat Pack, this doesn't *NEED* a new ending... it just needs to be wallowed in for what it was, and what it will always be; an imperfect, deeply personal, and undeniably beautiful experiment in self-loathing and sympathy for the devil.

There's the hardcover I'm talkin' about.

As for the "remastered" part... basically, they've re-scanned the original inked pages and re-colored them from the ground up. Sam Kieth defends some of these changes based on the fact that the work was rushed, and that between being involved in the TV show and constantly being behind in his deadlines to start with, a great deal of the things that have bothered him were in no way Steve Oliff's fault - they were simply choices he didn't express well enough in notes to avoid. Kieth has also admitted that he requested the Outback scenes to be desaturated and given a distinct motif, which includes a distorted, oil-paint like texture over the backgrounds, giving everything a diffuse, slightly off kilter look, despite the key art floating on top of it appearing largely unchanged. At a glance, everything looked close enough to the original, but there's been a consistent shift away from the vibrant, neon color Steve Oliff blessed the original Image printings with, replaced by a far less psychadellic and faded hues by Ronda Pattinson. Nothing looks "off" at first, but comparing the original books side by side reveal some very curious changes:

Julie's clothes are never the same color between the two, light sources have been re-done completely to occasionally more dramatic effect, and the background hues in otherwise blank panels focused more on character interaction are often completely different. Hell, Tommy - the boy sent off to get Cokes 'n burgers 'n stuff - has gone from a blonde to a ginger, and his once orange Letterman Jacket is now white! Does it matter? Not really. I wouldn't be surprised if when Kieth doodled the scene out he thought it'd be fun to make Tommy look a bit like the recently deceased Archie, a lovable throwback goof who returns to find everything he thinks he knows about the world torn to pieces five minutes later, but Oliff's work skewed the pallet just far away enough that the gag was more or less lost. Whether or not the gag mattered, particularly since it apparently wasn't clear to Oliff in the first place, is debatable. Another good example is when Julie opens the fridge at the start of issue 2 and finds a grinning Is looking back at her; the original version had a fridge stuffed with flourescent food products. The new version has toned the color of her milk cartons and snack-sausages down, so that the only vibrant color we see are the gnarly red gums of the monster itself. Again, not a change I'd argue the page needed, but it was clearly done to draw focus where focus was due, and from an artistic point of view that makes perfect sense.

I can't, however, decide how I feel about the shaft of light when Maxx is trapped in a dumpster and being gnawed by Isz having been ditched in favor of, I suppose, a more realistic - but far less dramatic - even light source. Some minor details from the original colorist are simply no longer present. Issue 2 features narration which, in the original Image printing, was made to look like it was scrawled on lined, three-ring binder paper as we'd expect form a student. The hole punches are still there, but the lined paper is not; whether this was removed because kids these days do that shit on an iPad or because Ronda Pattinson and Sam Kieth simply forgot it was supposed to be there, I can't say. Curiously enough, the striped pattern on the dummy's shirt is also absent, which is a shame considering how much fun Oliff had distorting the fabric around Gone's clenched fist. Another, more subtle loss in the same issue is the splash page of Julie pressing the Is tooth against Mr. Gone's throat - the original by Oliff features a single drop of crimson blood leaking around the tooth. Rhonda Pattinson's does not, implying that the skin hasn't yet been broken.

It's not all bad, mind you. Speed lines that were originally lost in the Image printing have been restored to Maxx and Gone's initial scuffle, and Julie's smirk when she tells Gone she can see through him like glass appears to have been either re-drawn slightly, or restored to show the pursed lower lip once just hinted at. I won't deny that the digital shading given to light sources and subtle gradations added to the evening skies bring a certain level of subtle realism the original, starkly cikired images lacked, and while the colors on display are a bit less obnoxiously vibrant, they're never so far from Oliff's original design that anything looks... off. Just "different". Saying one is objectively better than the other would be unfair; they're certainly not the same, and some reading are inevitably going to prefer the originals, but neither is substantially more detailed or consistent, and nothing is so gallingly different that the book has magically transformed - which isn't something I can say for that "Special Edition" of (for example) The Killing Joke, which transformed the Suspiria-esque color pallet into something positively dreary and mundane, or even that nightmarish "painted" bullshit that was done to The Incal so many years ago. It's a remaster that comes with its own kinks and tweaks, and while I'm glad I still have the originals to compare, nothing I've seen yet has been off-putting to the point that I'd not recommend the gorgeous hardcover printings IDW is putting out.

So, there you have it. You finally have a chance to give Sam Kieth money again, and the results aren't too shabby. That's all I can really ask for.


Adam G said...

Yeah, between this coming out, and new Stray Bullets, it's like living the '90's all over again. In a good way!

Anonymous said...

Great overview of The Maxx comics and superlative TV show. FYI, in the series, Mr. Gone was voiced by the late Barry Stigler, who remains somewhat enigmatic even after having passed away.

Sam Keith's commentary on the DVD is quite interesting, but the most bittersweet part of it is that around issue 16 of the comic, he tried to tailor the stories to suit the TV show, obviously unaware at the time that it would never get a second season.