Strange Adventures #1 review

Adam Strange has written a book about his heroic exploits on the planet Rann.

But not everyone’s a fan.

The Mr Miracle creative team of Tom King and Mitch Gerads are back for another 12-issue series looking at one of DC’s fan favourite properties. And if you liked that series, you’ll probably like this first issue. Or maybe you’ll be disappointed, for essentially the same reasons.

Both books feature a hero we’ve followed in shining adventures on other worlds trying to have some kind of life on Earth. Both contrast the legend with the reality. The problems of parenthood when you have enemies everywhere hang over both Adam Strange and Scott Free. Both books feature a raven-haired wife.

OK, that last one’s a stretch, dark-haired beauties are hardly uncommon in comics. Still, this debut issue gave me major deja vu, as husband and wife heroes who should be having a terrific time in amazing landscapes look increasingly bored and grumpy in suburban North America.

Gerad’s not illustrating the whole book, Evan ‘Doc’ Shaner is also giving us full-colour art, for the sequences set on Rann – but are these scenes showing what genuinely happened, or are they the ‘lies’ Adam’s detractors believe in? Framing the sci-fi sequences in doubt rather ruins the fun, but suits the story King seems to be telling, recalling that military personnel back from Vietnam were condemned by peaceniks as murderers.

But is this where King is going? Publicising this series, he said he wasn’t going to do a grim deconstruction of Adam Strange, and condemned the Nineties mini in which Alanna died in childbirth and Adam got together with a woman he cheated on her with, the two of them raising Alanna’s baby, Aleea.

Yeah, that was a thing that happened… happily it was wiped from main continuity in Mark Waid’s JLA run. Still, this issue implies that Alanna and Adam’s daughter, the almost identically named Aleena, recently died during a conflict on Rann. Which rather throws a literal pall over proceedings.

So who knows, maybe King will lift the gloom a little more every issue, and by the end it’s established beyond doubt that Adam is a thoroughly decent fellow, not one to be brutal in a war situation.

As it is, I’m not terribly inclined to read on because 12 issues is an awful lot of potential darkness before we get to a dawn that never needed to be re-established – ignore the Rann first posited by Alan Moore in Swamp Thing, Rann is a world of wonder overseen by wise, kind Sardath who never, ever deliberately plucked Adam from Earth to to impregnate his daughter. (To be fair to Moore, he was asked by DC to set up a few things for the aforementioned mini by Richard Bruning and Adam & Andy Kubert.)

But I will give the book at least one more issue because King sets up a mystery behind ‘is Adam a ruthless killer’ and brings in a surprise guest star to look into it. Plus, we occasionally get fun bits of business like this.

Admittedly, that could be making the point that Adam would rather be off slaying the first non-humanoids he can find, but let’s say it isn’t.

I’m curious as to what did happen on Rann that brought Alanna to Earth with Adam,and would like confirmation that Aleena is, in fact, being babysat by good ol’ Grandpa Sardath.

And for goodness’ sake, how pretty is the art? It’s interesting that rather than swap assignments every few pages, Gerads and Shaner occasionally share pages… if that’s being done by swiping panels into place on a computer there’s great potential for a fun cock-up along the way. Not that I’d want that to happen, perish the thought.

I’ve nothing specific to praise about Clayton’s Cowles’ lettering; he does a fine job, that’s all I need.

The final page features a great quote from Silver Age artist Carmine Infantino on his approach to designing Rann’s capital, Ranagar. It serves as the penultimate panel, though, and acts as a story speed bump. Still, King has done it once so you can jolly well guarantee he’ll do it every issue.

My digital edition features a grim and gritty (gosh, it’s years since I’ve typed that phrase) cover by Gerads. I was expecting, as per the house ad, a half and half image by Gerads and Shaner, but it seems it’s actually a variant cover deal. I must say, I’d rather have Shaner’s happy Adam…who wants a comic that looks like your kid brother scrawled on it?

More something I appreciated than enjoyed, this is a solid start. I’d be fascinated to hear what you thought.

8 thoughts on “Strange Adventures #1 review

  1. I saw that you’d posted a review before I read this, and then when I had a chance to read this, I thought, “Mart’s not gonna like this.” I’m actually a little surprised that you liked it as much as you did, but the art IS gorgeous, and that’s certainly something in its favor.

    I think I’m going to like it, but it feels too early to say for sure.

    A couple things I’ve heard from interviews with King & Co — in the first issue, the dividing line between the artists could be anywhere — present & past, truth & lie, Earth & Rann — from what I understand, Shaner is drawing incidents as they’re depicted in Adam’s book. They might be true, they might be a lie, they might be a partial truth; we’ll find out as the story goes on.

    Also, as you guessed, the quotes at the end will continue. IIRC, they’ll be from a number of Silver Age artists and writers. This one was a little choppy for me, too.

    I felt like this book had been talked about for long enough that there wasn’t much of its premise that came as a surprise to me. But the two things that surprised me that I did really like were the murder on Earth — I don’t for a minute think Adam did it — and also that Adam instigates the investigation into him. I knew Mr. Terrific would be looking into Adam Strange, but I didn’t realize it would be at Adam’s own behest. That pleased me quite a bit.

    I expect I’ll like this — probably a lot. But this issue didn’t knock me out, like I think I hoped it would. I think this one needs to build a bit.

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    1. I think we’re on the same wavelength. I’m so nervous that they’re going to get all revisionist on Adam and Alanna again… isn’t anyone interested in seeing if they can do a straightforward space opera? I’d love to see today’s creators bring their modern sensibilities to bear on the source material and do an equivalent, rather than a rewrite. Stun me with shininess, DC.

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    1. If you have the DC app, give Omega Men a go – it wasn’t the perfect read, what is, but it’s a well-thought-out look at how space war might really be. And it’s terrific to see Kyle in something where he matters.

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  2. Thanks, Mart – once more you’re taking the pain that I refuse to. I saw the ads and the solicits and, after not being able to make it beyond issue #2 of Heroes in Crisis, thought “Nope, this isn’t the book for me.”

    I like that you’re hoping for a build up to a happy ending, but as you said, it’s “a dawn that never needed to be re-established”

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  3. I have never read Mister Miracle, so I don’t mind traversing this story, as long as it doesn’t end with Adam Strange in prison for murder (oh wait, that was Heroes in Crisis, which I did sadly read).

    I hadn’t read the publicity, but concluded the Shaner bits set on Rann are showing the story as Strange tells it in his book. So my guess would be that it’s not Gerards=present vs. Shaner=past. I can imagine we could see earth scenes from the past drawn by either of them (Shaner from Strange’s telling of his times on earth in between trips to Rann) vs. Gerards from the reality of the time), and Gerards will probably draw some “real” flashbacks on Rann too. So really it’s Gerards=truth and Shaner=memoir, and we’ll eventually see how closely they track.

    Two other things I noticed:

    1) The title of the issue is “Chapter 1 – They floated above the ground,” and the quote from Infantino at the end describes the floating layers he designed for the Rannian city.

    2) The Gerards cover (which is the main cover) asks, on top, “Amazing Science Fiction?” The Shaner cover says “Amazing Science Fiction!”

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  4. Terrific observations as ever! I wonder who next issue’s quote will be from. Fox, Broome, Schwartz, Anderson… I wonder if they were all interviewed on the subject. I’m sure there’ll be an Alan Moore in there.

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