Back in the early 90s, the comic book industry was going through something of a new Genesis. Comic stories were evolving; longer, multi-issue stories were becoming the norm as opposed to the one- or -two-off tales, not to mention the multitude of crossovers into other titles. Art styles were evolving, becoming far more detailed and intricate and, as a result, full of life. And Image Comics took the industry by storm, offering characters and stories that were much darker and much more grown-up than the Super Hero Titles offered by Marvel and DC. Spawn and Youngblood began to rival the likes of Spider-Man and the Justice League. One of Image Comics' earliest series, The Maxx created by Sam Kieth in 1993, proved to have immense fan appeal, which continues to this day.
Twenty years after its release, Kieth has decided to revitalize The Maxx, rescanning all of the old pages, recoloring them and bringing them to IDW Publishing where they have been rereleased as The Maxx: Maxximized. Returning to a monthly schedule, fans will be able to revisit the mentally unstable, purple-clad hero in brand new, remastered, hi-fidelity quality.
I never really got into The Maxx back in my early days of collecting, mostly because Marvel's characters had pervaded my sensibilities. Granted, I knew what the Maxx was and watched the animated series on MTV, but never read the comic. It wasn't until a few years ago when I purchased a number of long boxes of comics from an estate sale and found the first two issues of the series when I even saw the inside of a Maxx comic. Now that Maxximized is finally here, I like the idea of the rerelease. It gives fans like me, who missed the series originally, the chance to catch up on a classic comic book series, as well as giving younger readers an opportunity to read it.
The Maxx: Maxximized is the exact same story as it was 20 years ago. When the series was announced, Kieth promised that nothing would be changed with the story, for better or worse. Essentially, all this is is a facelift, making the book prettier than it was. And for the most part, it's successful. The colors have been completely redone, all by the skillful hands of Ronda Pattison. Comparing Maxximized with the original #1, you can definitely see a difference. Pattison adds a lot of depth to the book by emphasizing the differences between highlights and shadows, as well as creating subtle shading in objects, most notablly in characters. She brings out the richness of the blacks, giving the book the harsh, gritty tone that Kieth intended it to have. There have even been some complete palette changes, with Pattison choosing darker, cooler colors over the warm colors of the original book. This swap gives the city a much more frightening feel which, again, strengthens the tone of the book.
One of my favorite changes, however, is the flashback sequence of Maxx in the Outback, battling an army of Isz. The pages are colored to look like an impressionist watercolor painting, with thick, organic colors lining the length of the panels. It's a fantastic change from the original that not only helps to separate this scene from the events of "the real world" but also makes for a breathtaking visual in the middle of the comic book. Seriously, as soon as I turned to that double-page spread of the Maxx sitting on the grass with Julie's face hovering over him, I realized I found my new favorite spread. It's a far cry from the static image of the original print and wonderfully executed.
Each new issue features a brand new cover created by Kieth himself. The first issue's cover is a play off of the original, showing the Maxx in a similar pose but on a multi-colored background as opposed to the flat black. It's definitely a nice change, and a nice thing to include in the new issues. I like the new cover, too, because it really speaks to the character's mental state. The impressionist lighting teeters on the fragility of the Maxx, who, when reading the story, we learn is not all quite there.
When I first learned about The Maxx: Maxximized, I wasn't quite sure if it would be necessary. With all of the retreads and regurgitation of comic stories we get now, do we really need a rerelease of something two decades old? But after reading the first issue, I have to say yes, we do need this, if for no other reason than to provide a bit of comic book nostalgia to readers. The Maxx was a fan favorite back in the day; it spoke to a lot of people through its surreal imagery and storytelling. Who's to say that it can't amass an entirely new audience? I, for one, am glad to get another shot at the series.