Friday, April 19, 2013

Tom Strong and the Robots of Doom Trade Paperback Review

Tom Strong and the Robots of Doom
DC Comics - America's Best Comics
144 pages
$17.99 (2011) Trade Paperback
ISBN 9781401231743

Contributors: Peter Hogan, Chris Sprouse, Karl Story, Jonny Rench, Darlene Royer, Carrie Strachan, and Todd Klein

Reprints: Tom Strong and the Robots of Doom #1-6 (of 6)

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, but on the eve of his daughter's wedding he is faced with the most dangerous challenge of his entire career!  Tesla is about to marry her love, the enigmatic Val Var Garm, prince of a race of subterranean lava men called "Salamanders" when a chronal vortex dissolves the happy present and replaces it with a nightmare.

Only Tom remains unchanged in a world where the Nazis conquered all during World War II and carried out their plan of ethnic cleansing.  Their leader is none other than Albrecht Weiss (formerly Strong), the illegitimate son of Tom Strong and Ingrid Weiss, former Nazi superwoman.  Albrecht was thoroughly indoctrinated with Nazi beliefs and possesses all of Tom Strong's abilities - super-strength and genius intellect.

The new, fascist Millennium City
Albrecht travelled back in time to exploit one of his father's rare failures and winds up rewriting history.  Who are the mysterious robots that made this victory possible?  Can Tom Strong prevail against impossible odds and what strange allies is he forced to engage?  Will the devastating loss of his family cause even Tom Strong to harm or kill his own son?

Pros: Clean art by Tom Strong co-creator Chris Sprouse, Peter Hogan's writing nails the feel of the characters created by Alan Moore, some good old-fashioned action, complicated time travel story

Cons: Bit too complicated with all the time travel (what time travel story isn't though?), Salamanders' link to the robots was a bit convenient, doesn't give any recap for new readers on Tom Strong or supporting cast (i.e. not a jumping on point for new readers)

Mike Tells It Straight: Alan Moore created Tom Strong back in 1999 as the front-man to his comics line America's Best Comics.  His idea was to create characters based on pre-Superman and Batman archetypes. Old pulp comics and science heroes were the basis for his new universe.  Gone were the typical superhero angst, secret identities, and eventual grim deconstruction of the modern day.  Tom Strong was all about action and excitement with trips to parallel worlds, alternate timelines, and secret underground caverns.

The original series was published from 1999-2006 when it ended along with the entire America's Best Comics line.  A spinoff title called Tom Strong's Terrific Tales featuring short stories ran from 2002-2005, ending before the main title wrapped up.  Fast forward to 2010 and we get Tom Strong and the Robots of Doom.  Nowhere to be found is original co-creator/writer Alan Moore, but instead Peter Hogan (who worked on the original series) writes and original co-creator/artist Chris Sprouse draws.
Albrecht meets a 'robot of doom'

I believe this mini-series was an attempt to revive the America's Best Comics line and Tom Strong in particular (last page of the final issue says Tom Strong and family will return next year).  It apparently didn't work as Tom Strong and family did not return in 2011.  My thought is Alan Moore has said his piece on Tom Strong and left the door open for others to tell tales.  He was highly collaborative throughout the publication of the first two series and a laundry list of top creators were involved.

This book fits perfectly with the previous volumes of the original two series (including Terrific Tales).  It's definitely not a jumping on point for new readers which may have worked against it during publication.  I enjoyed coming back to Tom Strong's world and thought this tale was a great progression to the character's supporting cast (with Tesla's wedding).  The story got a little convoluted and perhaps wasn't the best for the character, but it's a solid entry.

I just don't think the pamphlet format of comics will sustain further monthly tales and maybe not even a new mini-series.  Maybe we'll see Tom Strong again someday, but this review is the final entry as of 2013 for the character.  Check the complete list of reviews for more Tom Strong and don't forget to see Alan Moore's America's Best Comics for the collected one-shots.  

TO BUY and Recommendations: