Saturday, July 6, 2013

Terra Obscura Vol. 2 Trade Paperback Review

Terra Obscura Vol. 2
DC Comics - America's Best Comics
144 pages
$14.99 (2005) Trade Paperback
$24.99 (2014) S.M.A.S.H. of Two Worlds w/Vol. 1
ISBN 9781401206222

Contributors: Peter Hogan, Alan Moore, Yanick Paquette, Karl Story, Ray Snyder, Serge LaPointe, Mike Komai, Carrie Strachan, Joel Benjamin, and Todd Klein

Reprints: Terra Obscura Vol. 2 #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.

The low down on The Terror Program
S.M.A.S.H. was the premier superhero team, but disbanded after the alien incident.  The Terror died fighting the alien, but was resurrected as a computer program and continues a chillingly-emotionless battle against crime with his former partner, Tim Roland.  Tim dated Miss Masque, but she left him and The Terror Program behind to find love with the daughter of the original Fighting Yank, Carol Carter.  Tom Strange went on sabbatical to investigate the alien's technology in Antarctica.  All of them reunited to battle a mysterious darkness which turned out to be a former ally possessed by a dark Egyptian god.  After saving the day S.M.A.S.H. reformed and Tom returned to civilisation.

Now he has rekindled an old flame with Princess Pantha whose husband died while she was in suspended animation for thirty years along with the other heroes.  They are about to enjoy an evening out when a new crisis emerges involving bizarre time anomalies across the globe.  A space craft is spotted in orbit of Jupiter belonging to a hero named Captain Future who disappeared before the alien attack.  The ship is twisted into a strange form and doesn't answer attempts at communication.  Is the ship connected to the time anomalies and what about it's occupant, Captain Future?

Tom Strange and Princess Pantha investigate
Captain Future's derelict spaceship
Miss Masque and the Fighting Yank run into Tim Roland after a foiled bank heist.  He's interested in getting back together to show there are no hard feelings and stay friends.  Things back at Terror Tower were pretty bizarre for Miss Masque and she was relieved to put it all behind her, but accepts an invitation just to make sure Tim's all right.  He seems off and she's worried about him.  Carol is immensely jealous, but gives her the benefit of the doubt.  What secrets lay hidden in the Terror's lair?  Tom and Pantha ready for a space launch to investigate Captain Future's seemingly derelict spacecraft.  What new horrors lay in store for the heroes of Terra Obscura?

Pros: Alan Moore is involved, Paquette's art is fairly competent (he likes drawing really big boobs on women!), Hogan delivers a nice continuation from the story in the first volume, 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, absolutely no backstory offered for any of the multitude of characters, not much of a recap given for the first volume

Mike Tells It Straight: Alan Moore reintroduced in his Tom Strong series a group of superheroes from the 1940s whose copyrights had fallen into the public domain.  These heroes appear on an alternate Earth called Terra Obscura and this volume follows up on an initial mini-series (reviewed here).  I loved the idea of re-purposing these forgotten heroes and Moore seems to have done it more than once with characters which had similarly free copyrights (he wrote The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen with Victorian fiction characters).  The idea proved to be so good that Alex Ross and Jim Krueger (known for Earth X and Justice) did the same thing in their Project Superpowers line from Dynamite Entertainment.

What's up with Tim Roland?
I actually liked this volume better than the first one.  It may be the fact the characters felt more familiar directly after reading the first volume, but something was different.  I felt like the first mini-series just blew through the storyline and never really settled on one character for long.  The final battle and ending required some major suspension of disbelief.  We get to spend more time with Tom Strange this time instead of him just being another superhero extra for the story.  His blossoming relationship with Pantha was great and I liked all the story elements.

The love triangle with Miss Masque, Carol Carter, and Tim Roland was pretty awesome as it pertained to the storyline.  A lot of tension built up over the series and then a fireworks resolution. I didn't fully buy into the ending, but it certainly was epic.  I highly recommend reading the original Tom Strong/Tom Strange story and the first Terra Obscura volume before attempting this one as it is even less new-reader-friendly.  This story was it for Moore's version of these heroes.  I would say the two volumes are fairly decent and worth checking out - a new collected edition is being released next year with both volumes.  A couple interesting superhero concepts/scenes.

TO BUY and Recommendations: