I begged you (Strange Adventures #9 Comic Review)
Strange Adventures #9
Writer: Tom King
Artists: Mitch Gerads, and Evan “Doc” Shaner
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Strange Adventure is drawing closer and closer to its conclusion. The Pykkts invansion/war draws deep parallels to the Iraq war, and this issue is no different. Before this the reader has already gathered some crucial information. Adam Strange’s daughter clearly is a victim of the war, Adam Strange did do things that would be considered war crimes, the experience of POWs on both sides is horrific and unforgivable, and The Pykkts (at least the army) do not seem to be a sympathetic force. Much like the Iraq war where it would be hard to argue that Saddam was a great leader, but it is equally impossible to argue that the act of war against his regime was carried out in a way that made anything better. This conflict of emotions, goals, and reasonings is the core thematic concept of the series so far. Issue #9 gets right into the thick of things and focuses directly on combat.
This is the most challenging issue yet. Since the entire comic (basically) deals with acts of war, it is legitimately difficult to read and not feel upset. Tom King frames the Pykkts as evil, but we also directly see Adam Strange committing war crimes, using a sci-fi form of chemical weapons (during a Rann flashback). We directly get confirmation in this issue that Adam did lose his daughter during the war, which is something that is alluded to but never addressed (unless I am mistaken). So his motivations for being so violent do make a bit more sense, but still not justified. On Earth the Pykkts are shown as being invasive and completely genocidal. This is where my issue comes in. Tom King is talking out of both sides of his mouth a bit here. On one hand we have the entire theme (up until this point) that maybe there is no such thing as a “war hero” and that the justification for war, and the actions within, are always criminal in one respect. But King gives us no reason whatsoever to care about the Pykkts. All we see is a horrible alien race ready to kill everyone for no reason. Sure the methods Adam Strange uses are horrific, but we don’t see how he has another option. Going back to the Iraq War analogy, which King has introduced whether he likes it or not, it all falls apart. The Iraqi government under Saddam was horrible BUT the real war crimes were, the lies the American public were told to justify the war, the further destabilization of the middle east, and (most importantly) the countless innocent lives lost in the crossfire. Even looking at Iraqi soldiers, many of them had no choice but to fight and their deaths are a tragedy. Here the Pykkts are unsympathetic monsters. There are no innocent lives being lost, and everything could be justified as self defence. Sure the violence is horrific but it is like an action film where you are trained not to care. This whole series I have been waiting for Tom King to make a point, and I thought he was going to make one, but looking at this issue alone it is basically stating “War is needed and justified.” Now MAYBE the next issue will bring this full circle and start to introduce why the Pykkts are not actually evil, and put everything that happens in this issue in new light, but I can only judge this issue as it stands. And as it stands I feel disgusted reading this, and I REALLY HOPE Tom King changes my mind with issue #10 and redeems himself and brings it back to where I thought this book was going thematically.
The only thing that is not disgusting is the art. Mitch Gerads, and Evan “Doc” Shaner are an incredible pair that work together beautifully. I could gush about their art for a long time, and I have already done so. In regards to this issue there is nothing new to say that I haven’t addressed in the last 8 issues. Regardless of content, or how you feel about Tom King as a writer, the art is borderline perfection and worth picking up to watch the symbiotic work between two vastly different artists.
Summary As this issue stands, it is incredibly problematic (but has amazing art). It is possible, and hopeful, that these elements are addressed and refocused but the end of the series.