Saturday, January 5, 2013

Earth's Greatest Hero

Tom Strong Volume 1: written by Alan Moore; illustrated by Chris Sprouse, Alan Gordon, Art Adams, Jerry Ordway, Dave Gibbons, and Gary Frank (1999-2000): Ah, Tom Strong, Alan Moore's delightful homage to Doc Savage, Tarzan, Superman, and pretty much any other hero you might want to throw in there. This is Moore's least cynical, most big-hearted creation, a glimpse of how things might have been if DC hadn't pissed him off all those years ago and he'd instead taken up the writing chores on Superman.

Here, we get the origin of Tom Strong, raised from birth to be the world's greatest physical and mental specimen. We also get some adventures circa 2000 fighting super-Nazis and giant, intelligent slime molds and self-replicating super-machines, and flashback stories detailing Strong's back-story from the 1920's, 1940's, and 1950's. The present-day stuff is beautifully rendered by Chris Sprouse and Al Gordon, while the flashbacks contain crackerjack, period-appropriate (Tom's adventures span 100 years and about 100 genres) artwork by others. Highly recommended.

Tom Strong Volume 2: written by Alan Moore; illustrated by Chris Sprouse, Alan Gordon, Alan Weiss, Paul Chadwick, Gary Gianni, Kyle Baker, Pete Poplaski, Russ Heath, and Hilary Barta (2000-2001): The highlights of this second volume of Tom Strong adventures are a two-issue visit to Terra Obscura, Earth's alien-occupied twin, and the battle in The Tower at Time's End. The former is a loving nod to decades of crossover team-ups between super-heroes of different Earths. The latter is an in-depth homage to a class Captain Marvel Family adventure of the 1940's, complete with a C.C. Beck art tribute by Pete Poplaski that's a delight. Highly recommended.

Tom Strong Volume 3: written by Alan Moore and Leah Moore; illustrated by Chris Sprouse, Karl Story, Howard Chaykin, Shawn McManus, and Steve Mitchell (2002-2003): Much of the action here is taken up by Tom Strong, his family, and assorted allies battling an invasion of giant, space-faring ants. It's fun. Recommended.

Tom Strong Volume 4: written by Alan Moore, Peter Hogan, and Geoff Johns; illustrated by Chris Sprouse, Karl Story, Jerry Ordway, Trevor Scott. Sandra Hope, Richard Friend, John Dell, and John Paul Leon (2003-2004): Tom Strong gets to see his own life through the looking glass when a mysterious invader of the Stronghold HQ tells him the story of an alternate Earth's Tom Stone, who initially seems to have been a much better version of Tom Strong. But things change. Recommended.

Tom Strong Volume 5: written by Mark Schultz, Steve Aylett, Brian K. Vaughan, and Ed Brubaker; illustrated by Pasqual Ferry, Shawn McManus, Peter Snejberg, and Duncan Fegredo (2004): The only volume without any actual writing by Alan Moore, this one ends on a great two-parter that works as an homage to Moore's own work, specifically Miracleman/Marvelman, by Ed Brubaker and Duncan Fegredo. Recommended.

Tom Strong Volume 6: written by Michael Moorcock, Joe Casey, Steve Moore, Peter Hogan, and Alan Moore; illustrated by Chris Sprouse, Karl Story, Paul Gulacy, Jimmy Pamiotti, Ben Oliver, and Jerry Ordway (2005-2006): Thanks to DC's acquistion of Wildstorm, the former Image Comics imprint that was producing Tom Strong and the other titles in Moore's America's Best Comics line (Top Ten and Promethea chief among them), Tom Strong comes to a somewhat abrupt end as Moore pulls the plug rather than work for DC any longer, even at one remove (DC acquired Wildstorm near the beginning of Moore's ABC Comics line and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen).

The legendary Michael Moorcock scripts a two-parter in which Tom and friends cross over with some Moorcock characters (and one extremely familiar looking black sword), while Moore himself writes the final issue, a crossover with the apocalyptic ending of Moore's Promethea series. Highly recommended.

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