Strange Adventures #7
Writer: Tom King
Artists: Mitch Gerads, and Evan “Doc” Shaner
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
This comic focuses on what happened after the cliffhanger in issue #6. Adam Strange was captured and in this book, we get to see how he is tortured by the Pykkt. The comic is still split into two parts with the flashbacks all being drawn by Evan “Doc” Shaner and the present-day Earth elements by Mitch Gerads. Both aspects of this comic deal with some of the heavier revelations so far, but it seems that the flashbacks are what stands out more here as it is Adam Strange’s capture that takes center stage.
This is a story that does not paint Adam Strange in the most heroic light. If there is an issue that really shows how war can change someone, this is it. There are three fairly violent deaths in this comic (one of which we don’t see) and each time it hits like a gut punch. Strange is purposely compared to the likes of Batman, with his code of no killing. Strange sees the Pykkt invasion of Earth as a war, where murder is acceptable, Batman, on the other hand, is fighting these battles like he handles the streets of Gotham. You don’t see Superman just snapping necks, but it makes sense for Adam to do so. He isn’t a superhero (by his own admission) he is a warrior. There is also a large part of the issue where Strange is captured, in flashbacks. His torture is not a typical event, as it is far more phycological. That portion of the comic has far more in common with an acid trip than your typical superhero story. It is a colorful yet dark, twisted, and unsettling and one of the deeper parts of the book. The story in general is much different than every issue before.
Strange Adventures has been an Iraq/Afghanistan War allegory through Tom King’s writing (he served in the CIA in both conflicts). While the “strange adventures” that Adam Strange gets into in the series so far are fantastic and unrealistic, the themes seem to always connect back to real-world events. What makes a war hero? Can someone leave war and come out as a “good person?” Clearly, Tom King is conflicted about this as he seems to be juggling the fact that he was an invading force in a country and saw and was part of some horrible things, while at the same time the Taliban in Afghanistan and Saddam’s Iraq were not well regarded political forces of good in this world. Adam Strange is a straight-up murderer in this book. Two of the deaths occur to arguably bad forces, but one makes the reader question if they should be siding themselves with Adam Strange. Tom King is writing this comic with nuance that is rarely seen in mainstream comics today. I think King is making us question why we ever think that death is an acceptable response. Batman shows up early in the book and is upset Strange murders a Pykkt. To the reader it seems silly, this alien wants to kill everyone on Earth (it seems) and is clearly a threat. But as the other 2 deaths are explored they seem less and less justified (with the off-panel one seeming downright wrong). Maybe others will get something else out of this book, but this is probably one of the better “war comics” that I have ever read.
The art here is incredible but there is one particular stand out. Evan “Doc” Shaner creates Adam Strange’s psychedelic torture and it is something to behold. Every page reads like a trip as the art warps in a multi-colored fashion, only to snap back into stark realities. It is some of the best artistic design through story telling I have seen in a long time. Of course, Mitch Gerads continues to create beautiful realistic scenes that paint a picture of real human emotion, but it doesn’t come close to the new creative heights of Doc’s work. That’s ok as the muted Gerads only allows the other work to be highlighted moreso. Now, I want Evan “Doc” Shaner and Grant Morrison to work together ASAP.