Review: ‘Strange Adventures’ #1 Is A Great Mix Of Silver Age Innocence And Modern Age Media Scrutiny

by Olly MacNamee

Strange Adventures #1, written by Tom KIng, sets out to tell two tales simultaneously with Mitch Gerads stuck on Earth while Evan ‘Doc’ Shaner takes on Adam’s adventures in a galaxy far, far away on Rann. And, it’s a great division of labor too, with Gerads more gritty style of artwork an apt fit for Adam’s more grounded scenes set on Earth, with darker colors to match the more menacing tone too. It’s a mundane start, with Strange on a book signing tour, but events soon take a turn for the worse and the media are quick to jump in and begin questioning Adam Strange’s honesty, integrity and innocence when an irate fan is found dead, with his his head blown of by a ray-gun of alien design. Y’know, the kind Adam would use.
Meanwhile, Shaner’s wide-eyed no-nonsense Silver Age style fits beautifully when recalling us of Strange’s adventures in space. No better is this contrast between teh sublime and the mundane better summed up as when we get two very contrasting panels. One, illustrated by Shaner and set on Rann, is a beautiful, touching moment between Adam and Alanna, set against the warm, hazy glow of Rann, while the proceeding panel is dark, sweaty and more lustful than romantic. 

Cutting back and forth from Earth to Rann – where Strange is battling the Pykkts in an all-out adventure straight out of classic newspaper strips such as Alex Raymond’s Flash Gordon – provides the narrative with a sense of the dramatic as we cut between Rann and Earth. All the while, the fate of Adam and Alanna’s daughter, Aleena, is foreshadowed but never revealed. At last not in this first issue.
Underlying this book, as King told DC Comics in a short interview included in this past week’s comic books from DC Comics, is ‘the nature of truth’ and how we can present it, misrepresent it and out-right lie. Fake news versus the truth. In an ever-consuming world where readers have to be constantly fed with new and oft-times, hyperbolic content, truth is often the first casualty when you’re running a race to scoop other media outlets. Opinion is taken for fact and assumptions are made about individuals long before any trial date is ever even set. This is what is beginning to happen to Adam Strange thanks to a a viral video and the aftermath of said video, and the aforementioned murder mystery. Strange adventures indeed.

But, for me, there is another theme working underneath this all too. One that’s not as obvious but has ben playing in my mid for some time now. 
When I read the line  – uttered by a fan waiting to get his book signed by the wandering adventurers – that thanked Strange for his ‘service’, this moment intrinsically linked his adventures on Rann as something more military-like. Akin to the oath soldiers take when joining the armed faces; to protect and serve. We are all well aware of King’s own military services, so it’s no surprise to see him bring this experience to bear on this book. But, in doing so, is he inadvertantly mythologising this sector of society in the same way as Hollywood mythologised the ‘Wild West’ and cowboys? Is King part of a large, and somewhat worrying trend, of mythologising contemporary American history through mass media  and thereby creating a fake news all of its own?
Of course, this isn’t the right place to go into too much detail of this hypothesis, but needless to say there is growing evidence out there that this is the case. We just may not have the historical perspective yet to recognise this. Look at film like American Sniper (2014), the Pentagon’s very own links with the Marvel cinematic universe, and even Superman’s stint in the military as portrayed in Frank MIller and John Romita Jr’s Superman: Year One and more. There’s plenty of evidence around to build a case.

This isn’t the first time superheroes have been linked with the military, but is it a growing trend? Are we witnessing – in a larger context – a retelling of history as it happens from the winner’s point of view? A further America-first view of history? After all, as Abu Ghraib taught us, not all people in uniforms are heroes. Lest we forget.
But, I digress. I wouldn’t want you coming away from this review thinking this last point was the foremost point on my mind when coming to review this book. But, it is one that should provoke thought amongst you out there.
King has show that he is great at infusing emotional weight and real-work worries into these four-color gods, bringing them down to Earth with a very realistic bump. How Adam Strange will weather this particular storm and why the public will think of him after this trial-by-media is what really drives this story. A mix of old-school, Silver Age aesthetics  and contemporary ideas and storytelling. It’s good to see Adam Strange back in the limelight once again. DC Comics ahem had a few goes at this characters over the years, but I think this referring just might stick.  
Adam Strange #1 is out now from DC Black Label.

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