Madman is a hero for the indie crowd, where Dan Clowes's Ghost World meets Marvel's X-Men. Madman and the Atomics hovers somewhere in between these opposing forces, capturing the excitement of heroism and tempering it with the still beauty of everyday life. These are comics that define the very heart and soul of comic-dom in a creative climate that too often takes itself a bit too seriously.
MADMAN ATOMICA! is a sequel of sorts to MADMAN GARGANTUA, an enormous tome that collected all of Madman's earlier solo adventures through surrealist landscapes, self-discovery, and kicking monster butt. As a whole, Madman is a great example of a comic with a superhero premise that goes delightfully off the rails and spins off into its own unique universe of characters, displays its own physics, and becomes just as much about real life as it is about exploding aliens. These are areas that comics from Marvel and DC dabble in, but always tend to put aside for the next big crossover event, sudden character death, or genre-altering, world-ending struggle. Mike Allred's creative control (and prolific output) over the Madman universe affords the best of both worlds.
MADMAN ATOMICA! presents a fairly straightforward set of metaphors for being a teenager and finding one's place in the world. A group of teens who have been accidentally mutated into pustule-covered mutants due to an alien virus learn to control and develop the strange powers resulting from this virus, and thus grow into adults despite the obvious hardships of going through an "awkward" phase. While explored here and there, their own mutations can be controlled through the use of willpower and, in a strange way, positivity: another stark contrast to the path that many mainstream comics take in an effort to make themselves more misanthropic and "real."
Allred also litters his comics with ironically hip pop-cultural references without having them interrupt the flow of his narrative, which is a feat. Madman hangs out with Superman, The Savage Dragon and Hellboy, while occasionally breaking the fourth wall and exploring the nature of comics themselves.
This collection also includes comics with guest creators, so there's a respectable sampling of art from other great people within these pages, exploring more than just typical superhero adventures. There's nothing here to worry about as far as content is concerned. Because the book is so heavy and huge (and not cheap), it might not stand up to multiple, less-than-careful readers, but it's such a beautiful collection that even having it around for a brief time would be worthwhile.
Ultimately, MADMAN ATOMICA! is good, clean fun: the best of Silver Age comics brought into the Modern Age, and an inspiring collection to leaf through for hours upon hours.
Reviewed by Collin David on October 18, 2011