Top positive review
5.0 out of 5 starsNot Your Golden Age Adam Strange
Reviewed in the United States 🇺🇸 on August 26, 2022
Tom King does it once again with Strange Adventures. This is yet another example of the masterful way that King can craft a story about things that many of us may experience throughout are lives, masked behind a universe that features epic space battles, gods, and superheroes. This time around King tells a split narrative, showing the brutality of war in contrast to a detective narrative where we see themes of lies, truth, and perception.
Evan “Doc” Shaner does the art for the past narrative which focuses on Adam Strange's time on Rann fighting a war against the Pykkts. Shaner draws this in a style that evokes the golden age of comics that almost tricks the reader into believing that this is going to be the lighter hearted segment of the book. Throughout the end of the book, as more is revealed, we see Strange grow more and more cynical, and by the end he is not this happy-go-lucky superhero that we thought him to be. Shaner depicts this in narrative but also in the way he draws Strange. At the start of Shaner’s portion of this book, Strange is a clean-shaven man; however, as we see him go through the trials and tribulations of war, Strange stars to grow this gnarly looking beard. The beard is symbolic of Strange becoming almost just like the ‘savages’ that he is fighting. By the end of the book, the past narrative, while looking reminiscent of the golden age, is almost more hardcore and horrifying than the present.
This idea of ‘savages’ ties into the meta narrative of the idea of the “white savior” which has been present in many works of past fiction such as “Lawrence of Arabia” and “John Carter of Mars.” Throughout the narrative, Strange is required to build an army made up of the natives of Rann. The Rannian royalty repeatedly refers to the other groups on the planet as “savages” because they are shown to live in ways that the Rannians consider unconventional. The irony here is that even though these groups are repeatedly thought of as savages, they are instrumental in the war against the Pykkts. Even after their value is proven, the Rannians still end up just using these other groups as cannon fodder, showing that the Rannians are the true savages. This flips the “white savior” narrative on its head, showing that the wealthy and “more advanced” civilizations are not always the saviors that they think they are.
The other narrative we see is the crime, noir narrative that Mitch Gerads draws. This takes place in the modern day and focuses mainly on the characters of Alanna Strange and Mr. Terrific. Mr. Terrific’s journey mirrors that of Strange’s in that he also had gone through a traumatic instance in his life and has never really come to terms with it. Terrific never dealt with the death of his wife and daughter and instead had convinced himself that he never wanted a daughter in the first place, and then buried himself in super heroics and science. Terrific’s journey in this story is learning from the mistakes of Strange and learning to move past the lies he has told himself, in ways that Strange never could.
This mirrors Alanna’s story, who has basically dedicated her life to her husband. She has almost become a shell of a person since the death of her daughter and has overlooked many of the horrible things that her and her husband have done because of that. It is revealed later in the store that Strange had faked his daughter’s death in a deal with the Pykkts so that Rannians would look like they won the war, with Strange instead aiming the Pykkts at earth. It is revealed that instead of being the hero of two worlds, Strange is the destroyer of two worlds. These revelations shape Alanna into a headstrong character that by the end strives to be the hero that everyone (including herself) thought her husband to be.
In Gerads’s sections, the story, like many of his other works with King, becomes very interpretive. Gerads has a very impressive way of making characters appear in a way you may expect, while the story is going in a very different direction. The first two-thirds of the story often leads you to believe that Alanna has villainous motives, with Gerads depicting her as a heavy smoker, almost in a fem fetal role, while she avidly fights against the Justice League’s accusations of her husband. She is shown making poor deals with political figures, and in essence “drinking the Kool-Aid” of her husband’s load of lies. By the end we see that Alanna was being manipulated by Strange but in a way that he felt was justifiable. Gerads makes sure to present Alanna as headstrong but flawed. More so than any character in Strange Adventures, Gerads chooses to always position Alanna in ways that make her motives ambiguous.
Strange Adventures is a tale of truth, lies, and perception. With the backdrop of a superhuman epic, King, Gerads, and Shaner tell a fantastic story of what can happen when we refuse to deal with our past, and instead lie out way to the top. There are shades of the strong opinions that became so strongly formed in a 2021 Post-Trump political society, as well as the publics inability to see beyond bias; however, at the end of the day, Strange Adventures is about truth always coming out, and the toll that a traumatic event can take on people’s lives.