Strange adventures by author Tom King and artists Evan “Doc” Shaner and Mitch Gerads follows a trend that has served its author well in the past with his previous efforts to explore the psychological weight of a hero driven by love and duty. In some of his earlier DC books, e.g. Mister Miracle, Batman and Heroes in crisis, King gives energy to his protagonists with strong emotional urges that encourage their determination to protect their loved ones while also moving them down dark paths because of these urges. Adam Strange, one of the more classic Silver Age characters in DC’s long history, has rarely been put in the spotlight, let alone one who has looked into the heart of darkness, both recreating and deconstructing the very idea of him. With Tom King’s conspiracy-filled plot and Doc Shaner’s bright, optimistic artwork from the past paired with Mitch Gerard’s grim illustrations of the modern present, the team redefines the astronaut in moving and surprising ways that will prove to be a foundation in the character’s story. in the coming years.
Part of what makes Adam Strange such a classic character is how dated essentially his story is. Transported over billions of light-years to the planet Rann, the young archaeologist became the planet’s hero by leading the successful victory over the invading aliens, the Picts. Strange gained the trust of the planet’s leading scientist and married his lovely daughter Alanna, and Strange became “Hero of Two Worlds” and returned home in glory. Strange’s life story is almost too good to be true because he fights alongside the Justice League and launches a book tour with a bestselling memoir.
This is made clear in the opening details of the story, with scenes from Strange’s tour spiced with recognizable celebrities, from interviews with TV shows in the daytime, to constant schedule booking of his wife, to political comments made in the universe of mass media. The storytellers present a world where such an archetypal tale of sci-fi-infused colonialism would play happily at home.
It is this theme of colonialism by King and Co. that really makes their creative juices flow. That Adam Strange would travel to an alien planet with superior technology, fight a war on alien terms and not only survive but lead the planet to victory is a bit much, even for modern comic book standards. What effect does war have on a person? How did the love that Adam and Alanna once had for each other arise? What was the nature of the victories and defeats that enabled Rann to ultimately survive Pykkts, a race that is claimed to have conquered thousands of planets – and what does that mean for the Justice League when this threat raises its head towards Earth?
Within these twelve chapters, tropics are turned upside down, and truths are questioned once taken for granted. These moments only grow as time passes between Rann’s past tense war and the post – war party that turned into a scandal and the conspiracy of today. It’s a slick work that speaks to the larger history of the DC universe, a classic world of heroes and masters that has been repeatedly tested by our times of growing cynicism and moral dilemmas that question what it means to be a hero. Fighting wars requires killing, so how does that separate Adam Strange from Superman or Batman or Mr. Terrific?
It’s Mr. Terrific, who sets about solving the mystery of Strange’s time on Rann, and this is where the book’s detective angle really shines. As the famous “Third Smartest Man on the Planet”, Michael Holt’s study shows both the different aspects of interplanetary politics and the impressive abilities of the Justice League. While Strange’s specialty is combat, Holt’s is pure intelligence, and it’s especially exciting to see him put things together.
Every time the classic universe pantheon of the DC universe is on the list, Mr. Terrific often omitted from the main count. With Strange adventureswhile serving as a potentially definitive Adam Strange story, it is also an excellent showcase for the Justice League / Justice Society member, as well as a great introduction to those less familiar with him.
Strange adventures is an emotionally weighty work that increases in intensity with each new chapter. The ending is deeply surprising and will likely leave you stunned, especially if you are not used to King’s willingness to shake up DC’s status quo. But putting all this aside, Strange adventures is a lasting work of heroism that both believes in it and works to confirm this belief, even though the heroes of the book may not have been the ones you expected in the beginning. It is a tale of war and victims, and how victims and traumas often hide from those around them. It’s a reminder that it’s two different things to get out of a war alive and survive it. Strange adventures shows us that our heroes are still very human behind all the glamor and attention. It is truly to understand this that is perhaps just the strangest and most wonderful adventure of all.
Strange Adventures by Tom King, Mitch Gerads and Evan “Doc” Shaner can now be read in its entirety on DC UNIVERSE INFINITE.
Donovan Morgan Grant writes about comics, graphic novels and superhero stories for DCComics.com. Follow him on Twitter at @ donoDMG1.
NOTE: The views and opinions expressed in this feature are solely those of Donovan Morgan Grant and do not necessarily reflect those of DC Entertainment or Warner Bros.