Wednesday, March 4, 2020

STRANGE ADVENTURES #1 by Tom King - Comic Book Review

From the publisher: After winning five Eisner Awards and topping year-end “best of lists,” the comic book of 2019 was Mister Miracle. The comic book of 2020 will be Strange Adventures.

The Mister Miracle team of writer Tom King and artist Mitch Gerads are joined by fan-favorite artist Evan “Doc” Shaner to bring you an epic tale in the tradition of Watchmen, The Dark Knight Returns and DC: The New Frontier—a story of blood, war and love that readers will be talking about for years to come.

Adam Strange is the hero of Rann, a man famous throughout the galaxy for his bravery and honor. After leading his adopted home to victory in a great planetary war, Adam and his wife Alanna retire to Earth, where they are greeted by cheers, awards and parades. But not all is as happy and nice as it seems, as the decisions Adam made during battles on Rann come back to haunt his family and threaten the entire DC Universe. And now a surprise DC hero will have to choose between saving Adam Strange and saving the world.

A story like no other, Strange Adventures is an ambitious, thrilling, shocking and beautiful 12-issue saga that will push Adam Strange to the breaking point—and beyond!

Strange Adventures #1 by Tom King, with art by Mitch Gerads and Doc Shaner, is the opening chapter of King's latest exploration of deep topics using lesser known comic characters. In the past he has written acclaimed stories starring Vision and Mister Miracle. Now, he takes on Adam Strange. For those unfamiliar, here's a quick recap: Adam Strange was an ordinary archaeologist who was struck by a Zeta Beam and transported to the world of Rann. There, Strange became a jet-pack wearing hero in the battle against the Pykkts. On Rann, Strange found a new family, marrying Alanna and having a daughter named Aleena. He was hailed as a great hero and the protector of Rann. The only catch was that when the Zeta Beam wore off, he was sent back to Earth until the next time. Adam Strange has been around for decades, and there is a Flash Gordon or John Carter of Mars quality to him.

Now, in King's story Strange has retired to Earth with his wife, Alanna. He has written a memoir, and is in the midst of a publicity tour, which includes book signings, morning talk shows, and even a visit to the White House. But not everyone is happy with Strange; some people believe he isn't the hero he claims to be, and that he may even be more of a villain, with some veiled references to his actions against the Pykkts. After a video of a crazed "fan" confronting him goes viral, Strange is accused of murdering the man. To save his reputation, Strange must prove his innocence. To this end, he asks a friend in the hero community to investigate Strange and prove he is not guilty.

Just this story alone is very engaging. However, King is interspersing this modern day story with a story from Stange's past on Rann, where we see his actions against the Pykkts and also may discover just what happened to his daughter, Aleena (something that is aluded to in the present timeline). This dual storyline leads to one of the cooler aspects of Strange Adventures: the art for each time period is done by a different artist. The past on Rann is drawn by Doc Shaner, and looks very much like a comic from the 1960's, while Mitch Gerards draws the present in a more realistic style. The two contrast nicely and also add the weight of the story. The present day story is very heavy and serious, while the time on Rann is more adventurous and pulpy.

King seems to have a way of tackling deep subjects with his writing, and Strange Adventures looks to be more of the same. There is a heavy feeling hanging around Adam Strange's celebrity and retirement, a sort of sadness and lack of contentment. The relationship between Strange and Alanna seems fragile, with Strange carrying some sort of guilt and his wife trying to help him through it or just ignore it altogether. King excels at this sort of characterization and development, and I'm curious to see how they grow and change throughout the course of the story.

King has made two statements (in an interview with DC Nation in the back of this issue) about the story he is telling in Strange Adventures that I find interesting. The first is regarding the difference between the story we tell others and the story others tell about us. The second is looking at the nature of truth, particularly when it comes to 19th century European colonialism, and the gap between myth and reality (Strange, Tarzan, Flash Gordon, etc. being stand-ins for white European explorers). I'm really interested to see where King takes this story and what his conclusions in regards to this ideas are.

I highly recommend Strange Adventures #1 by Tom King. It is an interesting and engaging beginning to what should be an intriguing story. I'm looking forward to the next issue.

I received a preview copy of this book from DC Comics in exchange for an honest review.

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