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9/13/2013

Maximo (Dreamwave comic) review

We've already spoken about ill-fated comic studio Dreamwave in a previous review, but in case you missed it here's a brief rundown: Dreamwave was an imprint of Image Comics that was founded in the mid 90s, hit it big with their Transformers series in 2001, split from the company in 2002, then declared bankruptcy in early 2005 after their head writers left over pay disputes, saddling their artists (many of whom were independent contractors living overseas) with the company's unpaid debts.  Pure class.

But we're not here to get into the politics of the comic book industry, since I know very little about such things and don't particularly care to.  Instead, we're here to take a look at a comic based on another Capcom license they acquired, that being Maximo.


Maximo was a short-lived spinoff of Capcom's Ghosts n' Goblins property that spawned two games in the early days of the Playstation 2, then quickly fell off the map.  Now, I'm by no means the most qualified person to talk about Maximo; I only played the first game briefly many years ago, and owing to the legendary difficulty of the franchise I didn't get very far.  So I'll be turning to the Capcom Wiki's entry for this one:

"Maximo, a brave knight, thinking he’d found a trustworthy assistant in the likes of Achille, decided to leave his apprentice behind and go out into the world. Achille turned out to be an evil super-villain, and now the land is in trouble. Four princesses have been captured, and the dastardly Achille has spread them across the world, stashing them away in four separate towers. To make matters even worse, Achille has taken Maximo’s main squeeze as a bride. The knight must now battle fierce creatures and explore dark lands, in the name of peace and love."

Pretty basic stuff, so it shouldn't be too hard to follow the comic, right? I hope not.  Anyway, let's take a look at Dreamwave's Maximo and see whether or not it fares better than the previously reviewed Mega Man comic.

By the way, I apologize in advance for the grainy images; my scanner just seems to really hate this comic for some reason.  No matter what DPI settings I use, it doesn't make it look any better.


The cover's pretty bland.  Maximo standing in front of a blank floor with a lightning flash in front of a giant eyeball.  Not a very visually interesting cover by any stretch.  Hell, I didn't even notice the eyeball until I looked back at it for this review...

We open to the town of Glamora, a city of unparalleled beauty and apparently populated by children who look like Naruto.



 We're told it's been conquered by a villain called "Skabb" (subtle name there) and his undead army, kept alive by "half-souls" that prevent them from truly dying.

We then cut to Maximo in a bar called the "Dirty Pig", meeting an impoverished informant named Flea who promises to have information on the location of a princess - presumably Sophia, the one he was set to marry in the game.  It's also about here you begin to notice one of the main problems with the comic:


The art style doesn't really mesh with the style of the game in any way, shape or form.  Hell, it doesn't even mesh with the style they used on the cover of the comic. Would you guess that that this is supposed to be an adaptation of a game utilizing Susumu Matsushita's artwork based on that scan?  I sure wouldn't.

Anyhow, Maximo finally wins the kid over with a plate of meat.  Before he can get the information he wants, though, an oafish characters settles in at the table behind him, calling him "shorty" as he does so.  This prompts Maximo to start a fight and beating the living crap out of him and all his friends in a scene so cliched I'm not even going to bother describing it in detail.   They waste three pages of the comic on this, by the way.

That pointlessness out of the way, Flea points him in the direction of Glamora, where a princess is to be wed to the "unwashed one" in charge there.  Maximo quickly sets out as Flea asks for his payment, with Maximo saying that he already paid him by letting him scrounge whatever meat he manages to steal from the guys he beat up.  Our great and noble hero, everyone!

A mere two panels later and intercut by a pointless scene with Skabb, Maximo is on the road and has already encountered several of Skabb's undead minions.  Ready the lame dialog.


There is a highlight to this scene, though: One of the pig-headed goons utters the words "Time to meet death, little man!".  That's the cue for the grim reaper (Maximo's partner from the games) to show up and annihilate them all in one fell swoop.  In true Ghosts n' Goblins fashion, all that's left of them afterward is a pile of bones.

They banter for a bit as Grim explains that he's here to fix a "glitch in the death continuum" that allows Skabb and his minions to exist as undead beings, which has thrown things out of whack in the underworld.

After another pointless scene with Skabb and his minions in Glamora that eats up two more pages, Maximo arrives, cutting down two zombies and quickly locating the princess, who is clearly not his beloved Sophia.  In fact, I don't believe her name's ever given.  More exposition ensues.



That leads into the other major problem with this comic - the tone is completely off.  Maximo the game had a  certain self-awareness to it; it knew that it was modeled on an old school video game and had fun with the idea, evident in the cheesy dialog, eye-catching visual style and archetypal but distinctive characters.  Hell, watch the intro to the game and tell me if you've gotten any of that playful vibe from the comic.  ...No, I didn't think so; the closest we ever get to that is Grim making the occasional wisecrack.  Otherwise, this feels less like a Maximo comic and more like a watered down version of Berserk.

At any rate, the undead army quickly falls before the combined might of Grim and Maximo.  He then meets up with the king, giving a speech about how they wouldn't be in this mess if they'd spent time and money building up an army instead of just looking pretty.  Princess no-name seems to agree with him and takes up a sword, intending to fight alongside him.

Cue a waste of a perfectly good reveal in three... two... one...



Yep.  No on-panel transformation, no clever reveal mid battle.  Skabb's just a giant Mega-Zombie now.  Maximo jumps in and has a brief scuffle (complete with more dumb dialog), but it becomes clear pretty quickly that he's outmatched as Skabb smashes him into a wall, shattering his armor and leaving him in his boxers in Ghosts n' Goblins fashion.



He turns the situation around in record time, lopping off one of Skabb's arms as Princess No-Name does the same for the other.  One nifty anime bisection later and the fight is over.  We then see that the king has apparently taken Maximo's lecture to heart as he leads the townspeople to messily dispose of what remains of Skabb's forces.

Oh, it turns out the princess did have a name, by the way.  It's just never revealed until the very last page.



Our story then closes with Maximo walking off to his next adventure, still clad in nothing but his boxers.  Sheesh.  You'd think they'd at least repay him with a new suit of armor or something.

Thus ends Issue 1.  On to the next one--

...Oh.  They only made one before the series was canned due to poor sales and lack of reader interest.  Fair enough.

So, how do I sum up the Maximo comic?  In a word: Generic.  While it does capture a modicum of the series' playful charm here and there, for the most part it resembles a forgettable second-rate copy of Berserk.  The artwork makes no attempt to mesh with Susumu Matsushita's distinctive style, Maximo doesn't come off as terribly heroic (particularly in the ever-cliched start-a-bar-fight-for-no-reason scene), the villains are uninspired and the "old school game" aspect isn't really touched upon at all.  It even lacks in comparison to Dreamwave's Mega Man comic; sure, that story also barely had anything to do with the franchise it was based on, but at least it had an identity of its own, unlike this.

That's not the end of this segment on obscure video game tie-in comic books written by a guy who hates comics, though - we've got one more Capcom-licensed Dreamwave property to look at.  Tune in next time when we look at their adaptation of Devil May Cry.