Tom Strong, Deluxe Edition: Volume 1
Alan Moore, Art by Chris Sprouse, et al.
DC Comics, 336 pages
Heroes can be so complicated these days. Their motives are smudged in ever darker shades of grey while their angst-ridden lives seem less than rewarding. Are you ready for a hero without all that emotional baggage? Then look no further than Tom Strong. As one of Alan Moore’s creations in his America’s Best Comics imprint, Tom Strong has what it takes to keep the citizens of Millennium City safe from an assorted menagerie of villains.
The main character has his roots in classic pulp fiction and it’s been suggested he is fashioned from the archetypes of Doc Savage, Flash Gordon, Tarzan, or Allan Quatermain. That may be true, but there’s another “hero” that comes to my mind and that’s Dudley Do-Right. In many ways, Tom is a beefed-up version of Dudley -- possessing a squeaky clean, calmly confident and “there-in-the-nick-of-time” quality that makes you want to cheer for his brand of heroism.
The volume begins with a two page “history” of Tom Strong and his relationship with Millennium City, providing a nice set-up for this collection of the first 12 issues of the series. Tom’s story begins in 1899, when his parents travel to the mysterious island of Attabar Teru to conduct scientific experiments away from the influence of society. Tom is born on the island and is raised in a heavy gravity chamber to increase his strength and endurance. Years later, his parents are killed in an earthquake, but Tom survives the tragedy and is raised by the native people living on the island.
Now, 100 years later, Tom’s strength and longevity are legend among friends and foes alike. Often Tom works alone, but there are times when his extended family, including wife Dhalua, daughter Tesla, robot Pneuman, and intelligent ape, King Solomon, join him in his adventures.
Tom has plenty to keep him busy in Millennium City with the likes of criminal boss and psychopath Paul Saveen, the seemingly indestructible Modular Man, the ever-changing Charade, and the bio-engineered, Nazi femme fatale, Ingrid Weiss. But as if these challenges were not enough, there are also parallel continuums, alternate universes, and time travel scenarios which require all the strength and intelligence Tom can muster to survive
Each of the 12 issues reveals new challenges -- many offering a unique angle in storytelling with artwork to match. One of my favorites is the alternate world of Funnyland. When Tom hops aboard his searchboard to “ride the quantum foam and surf the collapsing probability waves into other realities” he lands in a world reminiscent of a Looney Tunes cartoon.
This world is made up of animal characters that have counterparts in Tom’s “real” world, with Tom’s doppelganger being a human-sized, muscle-bound bunny rabbit sporting the same stylized red shirt and black pants that is Tom’s uniform. The Funnyland creatures’ speech even has its own style of lettering, emphasizing the difference between the two worlds. It’s a fun, lighthearted romp through a very clever story.
An adventure at the opposite end of the spectrum takes place when Tom decides to test an invention that will take him to the land of the dead. Tom is anxious to try out the Necro-Gyro in the hopes that he can find his deceased parents. This issue is another stellar example of how the drawings, coloring, and lettering all work together to enhance the story.
The oversized deluxe edition is a joy to read. A 10-page “sketchbook” is included for those interested in seeing drawings transform from pencil to ink to color. With the exception of the sketchbook section, all pages are vibrant with color -- images seem to leap out of the book to grab your attention. The action scenes burst with energy and Moore’s creativity shines from the stories he tells about a modern, yet somehow old-fashioned, hero.
Susan Dunmar: I'm the Audiobook Reviews Editor for SF Site and, beginning this month (January) I'll be podcasting for Tor.com. In my day day job I'm a librarian and I especially enjoy both audiobooks and graphic novels. If you enjoy audiobooks, I invite you to check out my site, AudiobookDJ. (http://www.audiobookdj.com)