Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Tom Strong Book One Hardcover Review

Tom Strong Vol. 1
DC Comics - America's Best Comics
208 pages
$24.95 (2000) Hardcover
$14.95 (2001) Trade Paperback
$39.99 (2009) Deluxe Hardcover Vol. 1
ISBN 761941222646

Contributors: Alan Moore, Chris Sprouse, Al Gordon, Art Adams, Gary Frank, Dave Gibbons, and Jerry Ordway

Reprints: Tom Strong #1-7

Synopsis: Tom Strong is the science-hero champion of Millennium City and has been for the past 100 years.  His life is filled with constant daring adventures and the bold tales chronicled in this collection include:
  • "How Tom Strong Got Started" - introduces us to Tom Strong and his cast of characters along with revealing his startling origin.  Born in 1900 on the remote island of Attabar Teru to parents Sinclair and Susan Strong.  They raised him in a gravity chamber with the help of their fully-sensible Pneumatic Man (Pneuman for short).  The gravity chamber imbued him with fantastic strength and durability until an earthquake claimed the lives of his parents in 1908.  Tom grew up with the island tribe and eventually left for Millennium City at 20 years old.  He met his arch-nemesis Paul Saveen soon afterwards, but returned to marry his childhood sweetheart Dhalua.  They have a daughter Tesla and enjoy extended lifespans thanks to the magical Goloka Root native to the island.  We are also introduced to Timmy Turbo who joins the Strongmen of America.  King Solomon, Tom's talking gorilla sidekick is shown in cameo
  • "Return of the Modular Man" - one of Tom's old foes returns and threatens the city.  Tesla faces the creature while Tom is off-planet.  He returns just in time to save the day and ends the conflict with a smart bit of negotiation
  • "Aztech Nights" - a pan-dimensional empire derived from the ancient Aztec culture invades our reality with Millennium City its beachhead.  Tom investigates and is taken prisoner.  The Aztechs worship a super-intelligent computer god, but can Tom overcome impossible odds to thwart the invasion?
  • Four-part story
    • "Swastika Girls" - an attack on the Stronghold by an old foe thought dead -- flashback and introduction to Ingrid Weiss, a Nazi super-woman Tom battled in WWII.  She sends Tom back into the prehistoric past!
    • "Memories of Pangaea" - in prehistory Tom realizes he is on Pangaea -- the first landmass on Earth before the continents formed. Flashback and introduction to the Pangaean, a highly evolved slime mold culture which mimics other lifeforms and gains sentience.  Tom battles the Pangaean and manages to regain his proper place in time
    • "Dead Man's Hand" - the mastermind behind the plot is revealed to be the long-thought-dead Paul Saveen! Tom recalls one of his first capers saving Greta Gabriel from Saveen.  In the present Tom is confronted by a Weiss and Saveen, they reveal a shocking secret that will change Tom's life forever (and it does)!
    • "Sons and Heirs" - Tom reels from the shocking revelation of last issue and we get a glimpse into his future through Fingel Parallax's Time Viewer.  Dhalua enters the fray and faces off against Weiss, but can a regular woman defeat a super-woman?  What final shock is left regarding Paul Saveen's ultimate fate?
Pros: Good writing and series introduction by Moore, quality art by top rated artists, interesting concept/format, nice twist at end of first multi-part storyline, sketchbook from Sprouse, Tom's past in flashback is a chance to see a progressive development over his 100-year life

Cons: A few corny bits - blimp bandits, Timmy Turbo and pretty much the entire Strongmen of America, stories are a bit simple and mostly PG-rated adventures

Mike Tells It Straight: Moore and Sprouse co-created a surprisingly endearing cast of characters and the reader is completely immersed in Tom Strong's world.  The stories have an obvious formula with guest artists filling in on each flashback episode.  Despite a shaky start to this first book it ended with an interesting final story and possessed enough plot twists to keep my attention. Tom himself is a mix of old pulp heroes archetypes - Doc Savage, Tarzan, Superman.  He uses his brain to solve problems, but always after a good brawl.  His stories are straightforward, relatively simple and the good guys always win in the end. On Top Chef, contestants often get advice to keep their food simple, but make it really good.  Tom Strong reminds me of some well-prepared chicken.

TO BUY and Recommendations: