Strange Adventures #1
Writer: Tom King
Artists: Mitch Gerads, and Evan “Doc” Shaner
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Strange Adventures is the next Tom King maxiseries, where he dives deep into a character’s psyche. This is unlike his “mainstream” books like Batman or Heroes in Crisis, but more akin to his Omega Men, Vision, and Mister Miracle. King is taking Adam Strange and using him as a vessel for some interesting political commentary. For those not up on their Adam Strange history, he is a human who is blasted off to Rann everytime a “Zeta Beam” goes off. He leads a dual life as a human on Earth and a war hero on Rann. It is classic sci-fi pulp trappings and the Flash Gordon parallels are laid fairly bare. This series is also a DC Black Label title, so it allows the creative team to play in some more mature themes and divorce themselves from the shackles of continuity.
Being a first issue, the story is effectively an introduction to not just the main themes but Adam Strange himself. Considering he is not the most well known character, the reader needs the basic backstory to grasp the main idea of the character. The entire dual life is the backbone of the issue as Adam Strange is shown as a icon and war hero on Earth, and his conflict of trying to keep peace, through war, on Rann. The connective tissue between the two comes into focus during a book signing on Earth. Adam Strange is selling a memoir, aptly titled “Strange Adventures,” and is confronted by someone in line. He accuses Strange of being involved in war crimes against the Pykkts (the alien race that Adam Strange fought against in Rann). Adam full heartedly denies this on Earth, as the other half of the book plays out his involvement in the Rann Pykkts war. In this issue it does not show anything other than the Pykkts being an invading force that Adam Strange fights off in defence. Of course this accusation causes some internal conflict and puts his heroic actions in question with the public. Since Adam Strange wants this accusation to be cleared he asks for help from another superhero to investigate his time on Rann. The reveal of who this hero is leaves the story on a cliffhanger.
This book is what Tom King is meant to write. When he is committed to tying himself with continuity and having to influence the DC Universe line wide, his storytelling doesn’t always stand up. But when he can focus himself on a maxi series he wins an Eisner. So if you didn’t like his Batman and Heroes in Crisis, but you loved his Mister Miracle and Vision, this is the book for you. You can see some of his constant themes of war and love in place here. Adam Strange is madly in love with his wife (King always creates characters that are in love) and he is dealing with the emotional trauma of war. In Heroes in Crisis he was not able to fully incorporate what it is to be involved in war , as it devolved into a silly murder mystery, but here he is able to fullfill that promise. Tom King did serve his country in Iraq as a member of the CIA and you can see him working through some things in this book. Like Strange on Rann, Tom King most likely saw himself as trying to save the people of Iraq and his home country. It is brought up many times that if Adam Strange did not stop the Pykkts they would have eventually hit Earth. However, it is not a stretch to say that the Iraq war was a host to a number of controversies and possible war crimes. There is no doubt that the internal conflict of Adam Strange is Tom King’s feelings on his service on the page. Overall, King seems to be creating one of his most important and political works.
Mitch Gerads and Evan “Doc” Shaner share art duties here. Mitch handles the story on Earth and Shaner takes care of Rann. Since Adam Strange is a character with a clear duality, the split in art makes thematic sense. Mitch’s realistic and slightly post-modern style works well on Earth. Everything seems like it could be grounded but there is a background sense that everything is slightly off. Shaner is simply drawing very clean and dynamic comic book sci-fi pulp. The way both styles clash and play off each other adds to King’s writing and ideas. It is one of those cases where having multiple artists on a book actually works to its favor.