Writer: Alan Moore, Penciller: Zander Cannon, Inker: Andrew Cannon
America’s Best Comics, 2004.
This trade paperback collects issues #1-#5 of the miniseries Smax, which was spun out of the Alan Moore created Top 10 series. The story follows the character of Jeff from the Top 10 police force, who returns to his home world/dimension to attend a funeral. Robyn accompanies him and Jeff tries to pass her off as his wife. Robyn is none too happy about this, and it is a waste because no one really believes Jeff. It seems that Jeff is a bad liar and he didn’t even go to the trouble of securing fake wedding bands. It seems that Jeff is really scared that he will hook up (sexually) with his twin sister Rexa.
Moore approaches Jeff’s home world with a humor that is reminiscent of Terry Pratchett. The series does defiantly compare with the magical realism found in the Discworld novels. The world is a spoof on the fantasy genre but Moore incorporates some real cutting satire. Jeff’s recounting of his ogre father’s abuse to him (physical) and his sister (physical and sexual) keeps the story from being a light and airy satire of Dungeon and Dragons campaign cliques though. There is a dark side to the relationship between Jeff and Rexa that involves their disturbing prior incestuous couplings.
Jeff experiences signs and omens that he must go on a quest to destroy a dragon from his past, a dragon that he failed to defeat, causing him to leave his homeworld in disgrace. Robyn joins in on his quest, but first there is the matter of some bureaucratic permits that must be secured. Here there is a bit of social satire about the role of races in the fantasy world (dwarfs, elves, sprites, etc.) and how they have various prejudices and stereotypes about each other.
Robyn is led to believe that her box of toys will provide her with some degree of protection. In the lair of the dragon she discovers that electricity does not work on this world, leaving her defenseless. She manages to hatch a plan involving nuclear physics to take down the dragon. Dragon defeated ,Jeff returns to Neopolis with Rexa, deciding to tell no one that they are siblings and Robyn promising to keep their genetic relationship a secret.
In the great list of Alan Moore penned works this is probably in the lower half. That means it is a lot better than most other people’s writing though. I would consider it a minor work though. It is quite funny and the way that it is able to toggle between the humor and the darker elements of Jeff’s past is done with a skill and balance that is dexterous in a way that few other than Moore is able to achieve
Moore uses a piecemeal unveiling of Jeff’s past to the character of Robyn to make us accept the very bizarre situations in Jeff’s backstory. By the end of the series I found myself not only accepting of Jeff and Rexa’s relationship, but grudgingly supportive of it. Only Moore can write a story where an incestuous relationship is the happy ending to the story. Every other tale that involves incest ends up like Greek myth of Oedipus Rex or the South Korean film Oldboy. It is almost like Moore writes stories like this due to some challenge or bar bet. “Bet you can’t write a story where a brother and sister hook up at the end and that is the happy ending”, or something like that.