Friday, June 28, 2013

Terra Obscura Vol. 1 Trade Paperback Review

Terra Obscura Vol. 1
DC Comics - America's Best Comics
160 pages
$14.95 (2004) Trade Paperback
$24.99 (2014) S.M.A.S.H. of Two Worlds w/Vol. 2
ISBN 9781401202866

Contributors: Peter Hogan, Alan Moore, Yanick Paquette, Richard Friend, Karl Story, Jimmy Palmiotti, John Dell, Tony Avina, Jeromy Cox, and Todd Klein

Reprints: Terra Obscura #1-6 (of 6)

Synopsis: Tom Strong is the science-hero of Millennium City and has been for the past 100 years.  During his career he discovered a counter-Earth on the exact opposite side of the galaxy containing its own pantheon of science-heroes.  He named the planet Terra Obscura and had several adventures with his own native counterpart Tom Strange.  Decades later Tom Strange appeared on Earth and enlisted Tom Strong's aid in freeing the planet from a powerful alien being which had incapacitated Terra Obscura's heroes.  The two Toms were successful in freeing the heroes and defeating the alien, but not without casualties.  Tom Strong went back to Earth and Terra Obscura's heroes returned to a world which had been left in the hands of the villains for three decades.

Grant Halford identifies the body of his former
partner Lance Lewis
We pick up several years after the heroes have returned.  It's been rough going as many people resent the returned heroes for disappearing and leaving them to fend for themselves against super-villains.  S.M.A.S.H. (Society of Major American Science Heroes) has disbanded and several former members have gone missing.  Tom Strange is among them and his whereabouts are unknown.  The Terror was killed during the battle with the alien invader, but his consciousness was revived in a sophisticated computer program which has begun a campaign to eradicate crime across America.  He/it is aided by The Terror's sidekick Tim Roland who has matured and is involved with another hero named Miss Masque.

Carol Carter fought crime alongside her father, the Fighting Yank, but lost her powers when he was killed during the battle against the alien lifeform.  She has settled somewhat uncomfortably into a mundane, civilian life, but reunites with gal-pal Miss Masque in Invertica City, home of the Terror Program.  Grant Halford was known as The Magnet, but traded in his costume to become a private detective.  He opened a detective agency with former hero Lance Lewis, the Space Detective, who came from the future.  Lance knew all sorts of events that would eventually happen including his own death.

The Terror Program and Tim Roland try to figure
out who is behind the darkness phenomena
When Lance disappears Grant assumes the worst and vows to solve the mystery of his death.  He is caught up in a horrific event that begins engulfing the United States in darkness.  Creatures live in the darkness and no one is safe once they enter it.  Somehow Lance's death is linked to the phenomenon, but who is the powerful villain behind it all?  Can the former members of S.M.A.S.H. put aside their differences to mount a rescue and where is Tom Strange?

Pros: Continuation of the Terra Obscura storyline from Tom Strong's series, Alan Moore is involved, artist Paquette has some talent and loves to draw big-breasted women!, based on old comic book characters from the 1940s (published by Standard Comics aka Nedor Comics)

Cons: Confusing to new readers who are unfamiliar with Tom Strong and the world/characters of Terra Obscura, Alan Moore merely co-plots the book, events happen too quickly at times without any backstory

Mike Tells It Straight: Alan Moore's Tom Strong series reintroduced a group of Golden Age characters from the 1940s whose rights had lapsed into the public domain.  He put them on a fictional Earth called Terra Obscura and then spun them into their own mini-series.  Each character was relatively the same as their original versions, but with a few minor changes here and there.  The novel idea which was repeated by Alex Ross and Jim Krueger (known for Earth X and Justice) in their Project Superpowers line from Dynamite Entertainment.

Carol Carter comes home to witness a superpowered battle
I found the series to be just okay and readers must be familiar with the first story from Tom Strong or they will be completely lost due to the multitude of characters.  Paquette's art was good (he draws women with very large breasts, particularly Miss Masque and Carol Carter) and was a mix of Terry Dodson/Adam Hughes.  Hogan delivers decent writing and dialogue although not quite up to Moore's caliber.

Where the series loses is the lack of backstory given to the reader (especially with such a large cast of characters) and the rushed ending (although I did enjoy the Miss Masque and Carol Carter final scene).  I did like some of the ideas and dialogue which made it a fairly decent read.  A second volume followed this series and I'm hoping the story gets a little better.  2014 will see a new trade paperback printing and collecting both volumes.

TO BUY and Recommendations: