Monday, August 14, 2023

Comics Review: "THE MADNESS #1" is What "Before Watchmen" Wanted to Be


STORY: J. Michael Straczynski
INKS: David Lorenzo
COLORS: Marcelo Maiolo
LETTERS: Sal Cipriano
VARIANT COVER ARTISTS: Brandon Peterson with Marcelo Maiolo; Dalibor Talajic
32pp, Color, $3.99 U.S. (August 2023)

Rated: “Mature”

The Madness is a new six-issue miniseries from AWA Studios.  It is written by J. Michael Straczynski; drawn by ACO (pencils) and David Lorenzo (inks); colored by Marcelo Maiolo; and lettered by Sal Cipriano.  The series follows a woman who uses her super-powers as a thief and her quest for revenge against a group of superheroes.

The Madness #1 introduces Sarah Ross a.k.a. “The Raven.”  She has super-powers:  flight, super speed, super strength, and invulnerability, but she can only use one at a time.  Sarah has been using her powers as a thief, stealing from the rich and giving it to herself.  She plans one more big score – the proverbial big score from which one can retire to a life of luxury for good.

However, Sarah's score means she has to steal from the wrong person.  And this man is the “wrong person” because Sarah's true mark is a highly-placed and powerful official.  Now, Sarah is a target, and the brutal consequences may drive her to utter madness.

THE LOWDOWN:  AWA Studios marketing recently began providing me with PDF review copies of their comic book publications.  The Madness #1 is the latest.

Writer J. Michael Straczynski is best known for his Hollywood work.  He has written for the screen for such films as Ninja Assassin (2009), Thor (2011), and World War Z (2013).  His best known television work is the TV series, “Babylon 5” (1993-98), which he created.  He also wrote for such TV series as CBS' mid-1980s' revival of “The Twilight Zone” and for “Murder, She Wrote,” to name two.

ACO is the pen name of Spanish comic book artist, Alex Cal Oliveira.  He has drawn Iron Man and Uncanny X-Men for Marvel Comics, to name a few, and he had a long stint on Wonder Woman for DC Comics.  I really liked ACO's inspired work on Marvel's 2017 Nick Fury comic book series.

Straczynski and ACO come together for The Madness, and I can call the first issue a shockingly good debut issue.  It is filled with a sense of mystery, a murderous conspiracy, shadowy government cabals, secretive and conniving superheroes, and the anticipation of death and destruction.  Straczynski lures in the readers and then, holds them hostage with high tension, from beginning to end.  ACO catches the script at its electric edges, creating the right angles with a captivating sense of graphic design.  ACO certainly creates the sense that something big is going to happen every page.

For what it presents, The Madness #1 is one of the few debut issues that reminds me of certain elements of Eclipse Comics' Miracleman #1 (cover dated: August 1985) and DC Comics' Watchmen #1 (cover dated: September 1986).  For me, those particular comic books seemed new and groundbreaking and also utterly familiar at the same time.  Am I comparing Straczynski and ACO to Alan Moore and Gary Leach and Alan David?  To Moore and Dave Gibbons?  Well, am I? 

I'm on Twitter a lot, and I always come across fans, commentators, creators, etc. complaining that DC Comics and (especially) Marvel are not producing great comic books.  Comic book publishers not named Marvel or DC, such as AWA Studios, are producing exceptional and entertaining comic books.  If you pass up The Madness #1, you really don't want to read great comic books.  

I READS YOU RECOMMENDS:  Fans looking for excellence in superhero comic books will want to try The Madness.


Reviewed by Leroy Douresseaux a.k.a. "I Reads You"

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