It's weird, but this issue of "Madman Atomic Comics" begins with a 12-page story by Jamie S. Rich and JoÃ«lle Jones that is actually stronger than the Mike Allred story that follows it. "Last Night the Atomics Saved My Life!" follows a teenage girl as she details her obsession with the band the Atomics and, most importantly, its front man, Adam Balm.
The story is familiar: lonely, awkward person discovers a band and, soon, it gives them something to hold onto, something that makes them feel less lonely. The girl in question gains confidence, loses her acne, and it all seems to be because of her love for the band and its lead guitarist/singer. While reading this story I had the urge to put on "Rock and Roll" by the Velvet Underground. The similar idea of how much music can mean to a person is in both. Despite it being so common, Rich also personalizes it enough that it can't help but be poignant as well.
Not only that, but he uses the girl's obsession with Adam Balm to also delve into Atomics continuity with his death and, sort of, resurrection, and how those events tragically affected the girl. Of course, the story is also a bit tongue-in-cheek, commenting on the fine line between loving something and obsessing over it to the point of losing all sense of self. Jones's art complements Rich's writing well, and also offers similar clean lines to Allred, firmly placing it in the same world visually. She has a dynamic flair that makes even static images visually interesting and compelling.
This story leads into the first part of "Teenage Wasteland," which concludes the issue. A bit more laid back and low key, the story revolves around music with the sort-of-resurrected Adam Balm (now calling himself Atom Bomb) narrating as Frank 'Madman' Einstein blows the doors off a club on karaoke night.
Longtime Allred fans will love how the Gear and Red Rocket 7 are brought into the Madman world with Frank invited to be the band's new lead singer. Much of this story is discussion about the pros and cons of joining a band and does get a bit tedious. It seems more like a set-up for next issue's end of this series than a story in its own right.
As always, Mike and Laura Allred are at their visual best, packing panels with characters, each with distinct looks and mannerisms. Like Jones, every panel is dynamic and engaging, catching the eye. The two are a perfect match of line work and coloring, creating a bright, fun-looking comic.
The addition of the Jamie S. Rich/JoÃ«lle Jones story really adds to this issue and sets up the first part of the grand finale to "Madman Atomic Comics."
(Play spot the musicians game on the first page of CBR's preview of this issue!)