I have a history with the Maxx. Before I knew what the Maxx was I bought his McFarlane action figure because it was the most interesting thing on a Target peg. This hunched over, big footed thing with its middle fingers out. Not just out but they were weapons! Not only was he flipping everybody off, but he was using those bad boys to fuck shit up as well. He was literally able to beat someone with his “fuck you’s”. At least in my imagination. Even before I knew what he was I always kind of felt he was like a melancholy Hulk. Shadowhawk, another McFarlane figure I only bought because it looked interesting, I always though was a brash, slightly ridiculous shit-talker. Those were just the voices I thought were inherent to the character. Maxx is immediately recognizable as something else, perhaps something deeper, but certainly something different. Then I saw the MTV mini-series.
I was blown away, I didn’t have a Pink Floyd’s The Wall to blow my mind. I had that. That animated series was the first thing I ever saw that had more depth than just surface. I watched that thing over and over again each time pulling different interpretations. Getting the comics, back then, was next to impossible. My local comic store wasn’t that hip. It wasn’t until much later that I got my hands on a really late issue, 31 or 32, of its Image run and I was far too lost to get into it. But it’s always been something that I WANTED to be into.
Which brings us to Maxx #20 which appears to be the end of a major story arc. It almost feels like a series finale but if this is just the straight reprint my research tells me it is then there are still 15 issues to go. Not that you could tell that by this issue. A major plot arc resolves itself pretty quickly and then it’s just talking. Not in a bad way, the conversation is very necessary as we move from one place in the story to the next.
It’s well written, has some funny moments, has some poignant moments but most of my emotional reaction is informed by the animated series I mentioned above. This issue is more or less adapted as the climax of the animated series. So I get the references, I get the emotion that they’re going for and I understand the characters enough to be impacted by their words. That context earns it a 4 from me. It’s something that holds nostalgic meaning for me and I’m able to glean enough from personal context to extract the maximum amount of honey from this literary bee. If that makes sense.
This week I also reviewed Big Man Plans and gushed about Eric Powell. I would like to take a moment and gush about Sam Kieth as well. Whereas Powell goes for a high level of, at times, exaggerated, realism, Kieth is more abstract. But Kieth’s abstract is equally powerful in how he divides a page and creates a scene. This is most obvious during the last few pages where Julie, talking about the emptiness and anxiety she feels, is intercut with her Jungle Princess alter-ego in the alternate reality of Outback being calm and serene. This may be confusing but bear with me. Maxx has left and as such is now not represented in her Outback and her protector has been replaced by a large rabbit. As main characters Julie and Sarah talk about life, coping and moving on in the context of Julie’s anxiety the panels of the real world start to grow larger within the panels depicting the Outback. Slowly the real world encroaches on the pretend world until it is taking up most of the panel. Julie has, ostensibly, been ‘cured’ and her Outback cleansed but she still feels empty. She still needed The Maxx even though The Maxx needed to move on, to find his own identity. As we leave we see that while internally she may be whole, externally she still needs to work on herself.
All that weight, all that emotion, all that symbolism is told (much more expertly than I just did) by the art. The way this is laid out and drawn could only be done for this story and only done properly by Sam Kieth. As an ending to a greater thing this issue is superb but without all that context you could easily get lost. The Maxx is a pretty dense narrative that deserves to be followed from the beginning but even as a part of a whole this stands out.