March 13, 2010

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Smax

Written by Alan Moore
Illustrated by Zander Cannon and Andrew Currie
Wildstorm

Alan Moore spins off Smax, the oversized smurf with superman class powers and Toybox, his police (and perhaps more?) partner, taking them to Smax's homeworld in order to deal with the death of a close relative.

Smax's planet, off in the far distant corner of this universe, is kind of like a D&D Hell, and he's rather embarrassed by it. Things get worse as the more Toybox learns about Smax and his history, the less she likes--he's killed his father and has a rather unusual marriage waiting, amongst other things. But his worst sin may be that of a coward. There's a secret in Smax's past that haunts him upon his return, and only Toybox can help him--provided they can get along long enough to finish what he started!

This one suffers from the problem that it is not Top Ten, one of the best comics I've read in a long, long time. Smax and Toybox fits well within an ensemble cast, but they feel stretched too thin as featured characters. Though the blurb on the back calls Smax one of the most popular characters in Top Ten, he's not for me, not even close. This would be like saying, "Go read the Aquaman mini, he's one of the most popular people in the JLA!" Maybe other folks liked Smax better than I did, but seeing him in a five issue mini-series didn't cause me to want to keep reading about him.

This does so some cool parodies of the Sword and Sorcery genre, making fun of quests and dragon slayers and epic elegies, along with some nods to mythology along the way. I particularly like the conceit of the main villain's power, and how Toybox fits into everything beyond the role of "Oh geez, this #$%# is messed up!" commentator.

Cannon continues the tradition of great visual gags, like Stewie holding up Maggie Simpson at gun point. But the usual Moore plotting and pacing just isn't there. The story feels like it could have been a subplot in another arc of Top Ten, or even a one shot, without losing much of its appeal. This is especially true because Moore starts at one plot point, decides he doesn't like the idea of it after all, and moves on to another plot resolution that becomes the actual ending.

While most of Moore's material tends to flow together in a way that's both complex and yet completely believable at the same time, this one seems like the ending was shoehorned in. It really feels like someone else writing with Moore's characters, rather than Moore himself.

Moore also has yet another sexual fixation to resolve in this story. Really, Alan, let it go. Not every comic has to be a voice for you to give your moral opinion of a sexual taboo. It's starting to get old, at least for me.

I have to admit, I wanted a bit more out of this than it gave me. That may be entirely my fault. There's glimpses of the Moore magic here, but just not enough to get it into the elite class of material that is Top Ten, Promethea, or his Swamp Thing work. If you really liked the world of Top Ten and want more, give this a try. If not, you aren't missing anything by passing on this one.