Pullbox Reviews: Maximo Raw – A hyper violent grindhouse throwback that Does. Not. Stop…

  • Maximo Raw
  • Created, Written, & Illustrated by
    • Laurent Minassian
  • Coming soon to Kickstarter!

Lou & Samantha Smith have a problem. Lou owes gambling den proprietor Bobby Baccarat $2000, and can’t even come close to paying it off. He’s already hocked Samantha’s engagement ring, but promised said ring to Bobby as collateral. Now Bobby wants his money one way or the other, and as rising star in the criminal underworld, he can’t afford to give breaks. In the end, Lou & Samantha’s bullet-ridden corpses are left behind as a warning to anyone who might think about crossing Bobby Baccarat. Also as a plot device for their son Maximo when he returns home from the Marines. Maximo finds his parents’ bodies and on discovering who committed the foul act, he swears a vow of bloody revenge!

We hardly knew ya, Lou…

Okay, so I’ve described the first 26 pages of Maximo Raw, which leaves roughly 350 to go… plenty of time for Laurent Minassian to serve up the carnage. And there is carnage. So much carnage that it’s a good thing this book was done in a stark black & white format, or the cost of Arterial Red printer’s ink would have sky rocketed.

Make no mistake, Maximo Raw isn’t so much a “story” as it is a study in scripted chaos. Once I got into the meat of the book, I got the impression that Minassian’s approach to building this violent ode to 70’s grindhouse films was akin to surfing down a mountainside on an avalanche. It wouldn’t shock me to learn that a typical writing session came down to a frenzy of activity, followed by a pause as Minassian tried to figure out how the hell he was going to get Maximo out of the mess he’d just written him into. I’m not saying that Minassian went into this without a plan of attack… I just think it came down to quoting the late great Tony Stark, “I have a plan. Attack.”

I can’t say that I didn’t go into this without some idea of what to expect. Aside from the emails back and forth with creator Laurent Minassian in which he pitched his book to me for a review, there’s also the very subtle story being told on the cover. Between the hail of bullet casings & the proud proclamation of a body count exceeding 150, I thought had an idea what I was getting into, but I was in no way prepared for this book.

Let me give you a little insight into the life of an independent comic book reviewer… With the understanding that there a lot of indie books out there, way more than an army of reader/reviewer/bloggers could ever hope to adequately cover, we spend a lot of time cherry picking. I think of myself less as a reviewer, and more as a guy who’s been reading comics for a very long time and has developed an appreciation for the effort that goes into making them. That appreciation is multiplied when I look at how many outstanding independent creators out there are holding down day jobs on top of their work in comics. Whether it’s writing, illustrating, coloring, or lettering (in Minassian’s case, it’s all of the above which makes him a special kind of animal), someone is pouring a lotta love into their work with the hope that someone out there might read & appreciate it. Not wanting to ever be that troll who comes along to take a dump on someone’s labor of love, I don’t review comics that I don’t like. There has to be something that stands out to me.

In the case of Maximo Raw, I found that something in the reckless abandon with which Minassian approached his story. As far as heroes go, Maximo Smith (I kinda love the dichotomy in that name) is just about the most two dimensional hero you’re ever going to find. I kid you not, anything that you need to know about this story before diving in is right up there in that opening paragraph. Everything else is just perpetual and violent motion given two dimensional form and bound up in a book. I read well over 100 pages, waiting for a break in the action to grab some lunch before tapping out. Between that non-stop pace and the insane amount of visual detail on pretty much every page, a person could starve to death before they ran out of things to look at. If I had to point out something in this book as a potential problem for readers, it’s the lack of breaks built in to give folks a chance to breathe and maybe eat a sandwich.

Which brings me to Minassian’s attention to detail. Artistically, his book brings to mind the underground comics that came out in the 80’s… the books that make what we think of now as “small press” look like mass market publications. It might strike some as rough looking in spots, but I really started thinking about the stylized aspects in Minassian’s work. Without a doubt, he’s a talented artist with a healthy disregard for the dynamic activity a human body can tolerate before it just stops working. Throughout the action sequences that make up the vast majority of this book, there’s more visual information to take in than in the Michael Bayest of Michael Bay movies. There could be fifty Waldos hiding out on any given page, red stripes & all, and we’d never notice.

Another point that readers are going to have to remember is that this book reads like the schlockiest of 70’s grindhouse drive in movies. The dialogue is full of jargon taken right out of flicks like Dolemite, Walking Tall (the original, not The Rock’s version) or Billy Jack. If at first it seems a little over the top, I think that’s kinda the point. There’s a scene where a dual sword wielding uber-feminist is trying to gut Maximo, and the sheer diversity of epithets used in her diatribe is damned impressive. “Vile male feces,” “male-bottom dweller,” and “loathsome male urine sample” are just a few of the highlights. The fact that Minassian uses so much exposition to go along with the action just reinforces the impression I got, that this is nothing less than a reverent tip of the hat to the verbose and descriptive comic writing of the seventies.

If you’re a fan of grindhouse action movies, if you have an appreciation of hyper-violence in comics, or if you’re a lover of non-stop action, this could be your book. Coming soon to Kickstarter, in print form only (as Laurent Minassian explains it, his book is designed specifically for print, full of splash pages & panel arrangements that he doesn’t feel would work in digital form), Maximo Raw is a thing that’s going to be out there in the world…

Waiting to attack.

Final Score: 9/13

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