Review: Strange Adventures #1
[Editor’s Note: This review may contain spoilers]
Writer: Tom King
Art: Mitch Gerads & Evan “Doc” Shaner
Colors: Gerads & Shaner
Letters: Clayton Cowles
Reviewed by: Matthew B. Lloyd
Adam Strange is retired to Earth and on a book tour. Adam’s wife Alanna is in tow and they are promoting his autobiographical account of his last year on Rann, and the terrible war there. However, he’s accused by a fanatic of war crimes. After the fanatic ends up dead, Adam asks the Batman for help clearing him, but Batman recuses himself and finds another to step in….
First and foremost, it’s great to see Adam Strange in a book as the lead character. The series is drawn by two artists in different styles, Gerads accounts for the present, and Shaner handles the past, and in this issue the past is all on Rann. Between the two artists, Shaner is most notable in this issue for his straightforward depiction of a classic Adam Strange. While not specifically paying homage to Carmine Infantino’s look (Infantino is the artist most closely associated with Adam Strange), Shaner’s natural style lends itself well to classic Science Fiction.
Gerads acquits himself well in a much grittier style that plays into the plot of the story. This more realistic approach fits the post-modern take that King is writing. If Shaner’s flashbacks embody Adam’s past in Mystery in Space, then Gerads’ illustrative style is appropriate as it holds none of the whimsical fun evident in Shaner’s flashbacks. Both artists are effective in their roles, and both are enjoyable. It’s rare that artists of different styles are able to make a story feel right. Of course, one must praise King here as well for writing to tonally different sequences for two stylistically different artists.
Tom King does a really nice job of making Adam and Alanna feel natural. Additionally, the basic idea of the accusations against Adam present an interesting mystery that has the potential to be a great story. The seeds are there, but it isn’t without faults.
One of the character details that stands out is Batman recusing himself from investigating Adam. Batman apparently tells Adam that they’ve been friends for too long and that Adam has saved his life before on multiple occasions and he just can’t be objective. What a great depiction of their friendship in just a few lines. If Batman testified with this, Adam would surely be cleared! However, the deeper meaning is quite moving. It depicts these two characters in a way that acknowledges all their history in the DC Universe and gives Adam Strange’s role much more weight than might be believable. I mean, who’s ever heard of Adam Strange? But, to this longtime Adam Strange fan, this sequence acknowledges Adam’s place in the Silver Age of Comics, but also his significant contributions to the Justice League of America.
Tom King has a lot to answer for. In Heroes in Crisis, King destroyed Wally West. And, more recently in the final issues of his epic run on Batman, he killed Alfred Pennyworth. Understandably, I am concerned for Adam Strange and his family. Throughout Strange Adventures #1, King hints that Adam’s daughter is killed in the conflict on Rann. I might be able to deal with this, but what it really points to is that after his daughter is killed he does commit the war crimes of which he is accused.
However, I don’t believe he is responsible for the murder on Earth. That’s more likely Alanna. I can totally see her saying, “F#$@ this S%&!,” and taking out Adam’s accuser. If Adam did what he did because of what happened to their daughter then this makes perfect sense to me.
This leads to another anomaly. Traditionally, Adam and Alanna’s daughter is Aleea. However, in this book her name is Aleena. It’s hard not to wonder if this is intentional or a genuine error on King’s part. One letter isn’t huge, but it does make one pause.
There is something that is particularly unsettling….. When Adam greets a reader at the book signing, Gerads depiction of Adam is disturbing…. He comes off as disingenuine. His smile is TOO broad. He is TOO open in his greeting. Not sure if this is intentional or an affectation of Gerads style. It does set off a red flag, however.
Finally, and this is not necessarily a negative, it just comes off as bizarre. It’s established that Adam and Alanna have retired to Earth after what transpired on Rann. So, they have been on Earth for a bit, but I question Alanna’s level of comfort with Earth and its ways. She seems like any other Earth woman. There’s no indication that she’s getting adjusted or anything. Most confounding is the scene in which she’s shown smoking a cigarette. While not a negative simply because it’s depicted, it seems very odd for an alien who comes from a world which has never depicted smoking, this raises questions.
This is a carefully conceived project. It’s not 1958. Smoking is going to have some other meaning. Perhaps, it’s simply placing the story in an atmosphere that reflects Adam Strange’s Silver Age roots. That’s always a possibility. However, the story is firmly in the present with Adam and Alanna on cell phones. Is this not REALLY Alanna? Is there some larger mystery at play? Or, is the reviewer simply overreacting?
The positives outweigh the negatives here as the technical aspects of Strange Adventures #1 manage to outweigh the content. Additionally, some of the negatives are based on conjecture and expectations based on King’s other work. Adam does seem COMPLETELY sure that he isn’t guilty of the charges brought against him. Even if one is unsure of King’s story direction, it’s undeniable that Gerads and Shaner do everything they can to sell book!