Seeping in Flames heats up the drama as Tom Strong and Val Var Garm confront Tom Strange on his secret Moon Base. Strange agrees to give them the Alosun Elixir, but Tom and Val find escaping the Planet of Peril impossible as the Red Death gets personal.
The drama is solid. It’s got a brilliant mix of emotions starting with the sadness following the funeral at the beginning, all the way past elation, frustration, sexiness, right on through to a beautifully mirrored emotional tragedy at the end. There’s a subtle sense of a lack of trust built up between the cast which is almost ironically smothered by Tom Strong’s apparent obliviousness to it. It’s good. Every time you read #5 a new layer of paranoia embedded in the bitterly bleak dystopia creeps up on you as fleeting character appearances add to the subterfuge.
The artwork is constant and seamlessly follows between the plot and the dialogue. The panel layout is always simple and lets the eye focus on the world in the frame. The simple design and colour pallet are great as well. It’s like a renaissance of Alan Moor’s run of Tom Strong. It’s tidy, keeping with the theme of returning to the (almost) past.
The use of speech balloons is excellent; clear and dynamic. Tom Strong often has bigger words, bolder text and thicker bubbles than other characters. This makes him seem more assertive, accentuating his character with a paternal and patriarchal tone that highlights Tom’s greying profile.
But, the distinct lack of a central antagonistic villain seems to be stagnating the story. Although are some hints of a ‘who dun it’ thing going on, at this point there’s about a 50/50 chance of someone ‘dunning it’ or ‘not dunning it’. It’s less of a mystery and more of an incredibly dire situation on an apocalyptic dystopia.
Looking ahead, it’s hard to see how Hogan is going to resolve the story in only one issue.
While the drama is very engaging, a lot of the time the story seems to suffer; accommodating characters that appear, disappear and have no relevance to the plot whatsoever. Too many time’s it is possible to skip over what the character’s are saying and makes absolutely no difference to the rest of story. Like the few panels at the beginning about passing on the Cavalier’s sword to his grandson. Sure, it’s a lovely touching moment about the continuation of a legacy, but many, many panels are taken up by these kinds of moments. The story is bogged down by them and the scenes where action takes place are diluted to make room for more talking.
As an example: a bad, yet also kind of funny, moment in the artwork is when Andrew Bryant shatters the table panel. His face doesn’t match the voice, and the whole outburst is slightly forced. Sure, he’s got superpowers, he’s frustrated and angry and he broke a table by accident. At least make him look like he’s upset. A tear, a face wrinkle, anything.
As much potential as it has, Seeping in Flames falls short of tying in well with the rest of the series. As a consequence of the emotional fanning of #5 smoulders like a boulder on a bonfire. Hopefully Hogan’s sentimentality is spent, and the last issue of Tom Strong and The Planet of Peril goes up like an All-American house on fire.