Tom Strong and the Robots of Doom #1
Written by Peter Hogan
Penciled by Chris Sprouse
Inked by Karl Story
Colored by Carrie Strachan
Lettered by Todd Klein
Cover art by Sprouse, Story & Strachan or J.H. Williams III
If Alan Moore isn’t available to spin more stories of the pulp-inspired hero he co-created, Peter Hogan’s a mighty fine choice to carry on the adventures of the Strong family. Tom Strong was Moore’s reimagining of the superhero via the original pulp hero model, a man given strength by science and intelligence by learning. With Moore splitting from the publisher, Hogan steps into the breach to spin a yarn that finds Strong’s illegitimate Nazi son (read it to understand how that came to be) time traveling to the past and altering the outcome of WWII.
Granted, Nazis as villains is the most overused cliché there is, but Hogan understands what makes Tom Strong – really what makes the most memorable superheroes – such a strong escapist protagonist. Tom’s compassionate and kind, intelligent, and absolutely uncompromising in his heroic convictions. Hogan puts him in the middle of seemingly impossible odds and just lets that purity of spirit shine through.
Actually, Hogan does more than that. He opens on Tom’s wife Dhalua and follows her through half the issue, which builds (or rebuilds) the reader’s connection to Tom’s family and enhances the appreciation of Dhalua’s sudden disappearance in the Nazi-controlled reality Tom finds himself trapped in. This debut issue not only sets up the long odds of Tom Strong vs. the entire Naziverse to recreate reality and save his family, but it also poses the riddle of why Tom Strong alone of all people remembers the way things should be.
Chris Sprouse, Alan Moore’s collaborator in Tom Strong’s creation, returns to illustrate this latest adventure, and of course, he’s perfect for the job. Sprouse’s strong, clean lines capture the powerful elegance and simplicity of a character like Tom Strong, physically and thematically, and Sprouse’s lean, streamlined architecture and technology fit the uncluttered escapism of the serial.
There are limits to where you can go with a character like this, which is why Tom Strong’s the sort of character who’s best in small bursts of cotton candy escapism, and Tom Strong and the Robots of Doom looks like it’s going to be exactly that. Alternate realities, Nazis, one man against the world, shining beacons of hope and uncompromising faith, and superior artwork – this one’s got it all. Don’t miss it.
Written by Grant Morrison
Illustrated by Tony Daniel, Frank Quitely, Scott Kolins, Andy Kubert and David Finch & Richard Friend
Colored by Ian Hannin, Alex Sinclair & Tony Avina, Brad Anderson and Peter Steigerwald
Lettered by Jarek K. Fletcher
Cover art by Finch or Mike Mignola
Batman Gallery artwork by Shane Davis, Juan Doe, Guillem March, Dustin Nguyen, Tim Sale, Bill Sienkiewicz and Philip Tan
Secrets of the Batcave sequence designed and 3-D modeled by Freddie E Williams III, with text by Matthew K. Manning
Seven hundred issues is a nice round number, isn’t it? (Well, if you don’t count issue number 0 or 1,000,000.) Grant Morrison, one of the more imaginative and challenging writers in comics today, scripts the 700th issue of the comic series Batman, and as is the way with these big round numbered issues, he opts for a celebration of Batman and his timelessness.
In this case, the issue titled “Time and the Batman” follows three different Batman – Bruce Wayne, Dick Grayson and Damian Wayne – through encounters with a somewhat mythical Joker’s Joke Book and a time-traveling Dr. Carter Nichols. Of course, the story doesn’t really illuminate any great insight into the concept of Batman. Morrison fits a few snappy lines into the script, but none of the three major chapters offer much insight into the importance of Batman, nor does any chapter offer more than a jumpy, unfocused action piece.
There is one great page, three panels, two lines – second to last page in the far future versions of Batman chapter, and that one page sums it all up perfectly. Alas, the portions of the issue leading to it don’t deliver.
Artistically, the segmented narrative justifies the divergent art styles. Though I’m not particularly a fan of Daniel or Finch’s over-rendered style, both present solid action sequences, and Frank Quitely, Scott Kolins (his pages are too saturated with color in comparison) and Andy Kubert also provide strong pages, each giving their particular Batman their own distinct mark.