Strange Adventures #2
Writer: Tom King
Artists: Mitch Gerads, and Evan “Doc” Shaner
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
It has been a while since the last issue (COVID19 caused a massive delay in this maxi-series), but things seem to be back on track. When the series left off, Adam Strange was a “war hero” of sorts and on a massive book tour (of a book aptly named Strange Adventures). Adam was confronted by someone claiming that he committed war crimes on Rann, something that Adam denied. However, wanting this to be settled he asked for some unbiased superhero help in digging into his past. The issue ended with Mr. Terrific, proclaimed the smartest person on the planet, agreeing to investigate Adam Strange.
This comic has two plot threads, which is most likely going to be the case for every issue going forward. One plot revolves around Mr. Terrific, and how he comes to accept the case. The reader could assume that this plotline would be running in tandem with issue #1. Mostly it is Mr. Terrific showing off how he is knowledgeable on every known subject as his robot companion quizzes him relentlessly. There is a bit of background given, reminding the reader of his origin story and how he lost a family. This ties him to Adam Strange who also seems to have suffered some sort of loss on Rann. His story concludes with him accepting the mission to investigate Adam Strange, which is how issue #1 ended. The other plot is Adam Strange in the past. He is on a mission on Rann, trying to make allies with a tribe of aliens in the desert. The allegorical connections to war and politics in the middle east is fairly overt and clear. Adam is with his wife and something seemed to have happened to his daughter (it is implied but never fully clear). The journey through the desert almost kills Adam’s wife and the story seems to be something that will continue in the next issue.
Tom King is best when writing in this style. When he can deal with something personal and can create something self-contained (like a maxi-series) his writing shines. He is able to juggle two things and make them work in perfect harmony. The Mr. Terrific aspect of the book helps introduce and highlight the character. He is far from a new character but he is underutilized in modern-day DC. King’s is able to reveal the character in a meaningful way for new and old readers alike. Mr. Terrific is shown as being extremely smart, but also sympathetic. The ties to Adam Strange and his story are subtle yet essential. You can tell that this is going to be a story for Mr. Terrific fans as well. The Adam Strange war story is being pulled from Tom King’s service in Iraq and Afghanistan. The way Adam Strange navigates alien politics is no different than what King most likely had to deal with in his real life. Forming alliances with outside forces you may not agree with to fight off an invading force. Of course, nothing is cut and dry or good vs evil here. Adam is driven by his love for his wife as much as he is being a protector of Rann. The politics are set up in this issue but the outcome is not yet clear. Tom King is rightfully telling a war story that will not be full of heroes. King himself is probably struggling with the idea of coming back from a war and analyzing his service and what it meant. Going off to war, even for good reasons, must mean that horrible things will occur that are far from “heroic.” I trust Tom King to create a story that will be meaningful and realistic while dealing with science fiction. All best sci-fi is steeped in the politics of the world told through a new lens.
The art here continues to impress. Mitch Gerads and Evan “Doc” Shaner create two very different looking yet symbiotic pieces. Mitch Gerads can ground his work on Earth and make everything look gritty and uncomfortable. He takes his typical style and makes it slightly darker. Shaner’s work is cleaner, but it works as being a throwback to a “war story.” It also helps elevate and highlight the strange alien planet of Rann and all the things that live there. There is a whimsical aspect to the art that helps sell this as sci-fi. The art here is just perfect. Every layout, every panel, every character, is perfectly drawn. Tom King is known for his sparse scripts that expect the art team to do a lot of interpretation and heavy lifting, and he could not have chosen a better duo for this task. You can remove the words and still follow this book.