Shiny Shelf

Smax #1

By Eddie Robson on 20 August 2003

A full two years after ‘Season 1′ of Alan Moore’s ‘Top 10′ came to a close, here’s the long-promised spin-off miniseries. Whilst ‘Top 10′ had a large and varied supporting cast the main characters were always Smax and Toybox, both of whom feature here. So why isn’t this being published under the ‘Top 10′ banner?

The answer is that it doesn’t conform to the ‘Top 10′ format. Whilst ‘Top 10′ is a police procedural series set in a world of superheroes, ‘Smax’ explores the background of the blue-skinned barbarian. Born on a parallel Earth of fantasy and fairy-tales, in this series Smax returns for the funeral of the uncle who raised him: we saw him receive this news towards the end of ‘Top 10′ and this story follows directly on from that.

Smax’s beat partner Robyn ‘Toybox’ Slinger accompanies him: Smax states that this is to keep him rooted in his new life on the force, but in story terms she’s our identification character. ‘It sounds sort of… I dunno. Stupid,’ Robyn says during Smax’s explanation of how this world operates, and Moore needs such a figure to acknowledge this. It is kind of stupid, but it’s funny.

It’s not unlike ‘The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen’, in as much as Moore has selected a particular area of literature and built a world around it: here, throwaway references to myths, legends and children’s stories abound. However, whilst ‘League’ takes place entirely within the world defined by Victorian literature, ‘Smax’ takes its source material and applies contemporary logic to it.

Moore doesn’t have any problems drawing humour out of this. ‘All the wizards and heroes buy second homes, places like here in the Dell,’ Smax explains as he and Robyn walk through a development of mushroom houses. ‘Property prices rocket. Castles, even a decent cave, down payment’s gonna be one, two gold eggs. Minimum.’ We also see liberal use of the ‘Top 10′ trademark: the appearance of amusing details and recognisable characters in the corners of frames.

‘Top 10′ inker Zander Cannon has undertaken all aspects of the art here, and whilst his style has a slightly warped look to it (I use the word literally: people and objects have a tendency to look like they’ve been twisted slightly out of shape) it works for the story here. It’s softer than Gene Ha’s sketchy, scratchy pencils and Smax himself has a great deal more expression in his face as a result.

As yet ‘Smax’ hasn’t progressed much past the introduction of the world in which it is to take place, but that’s enough for now – and I take it on trust that the remainder of this five-issue series will develop the possibilities offered by the concept. The big question is, will there ever be a second ’season’ of ‘Top 10′? It’d be a damn shame if there wasn’t.

Order ‘Top 10′ Volume One and ‘Top 10′ Volume Two from Amazon.

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By Eddie Robson

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