THIS WEEK: Two different series tackle a modern take on superheroes, but who does it better: Strange Adventures #12 or Superman & The Authority #4?
Note: the reviews below contain spoilers. If you want a quick, spoiler-free buy/pass recommendation on the comics in question, check out the bottom of the article for our final verdicts.
Strange Adventures #12
Writer: Tom King
Artists and cover: Mitch Gerads and Doc Shaner
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Wouldn’t you know it, the last time my rotation came up I lamented the delay of Strange Adventures #12, and here we are and it’s my turn in the rotation again and it comes up. I almost wish it hadn’t. I’m not known for loving Tom King books after all, and frankly, it’s more fun to write about books you enjoy than ones you don’t. But, it makes sense that I write about the final issue since I was the one to write about the first issue way back in early 2020.
Now certainly, some things have changed since that first issue. In fact one of my main complaints was negated by the revelation that Strange’s daughter was not actually killed. In fact, after Alanna killed Adam last issue, a good portion of this issue is Alanna and Mister Terrific rescuing Aleea from the Pykkts. Despite the erasure of the first issue fridging, my problems with the series remain. They are problems that often plague King’s comics, and this is no exception.
The first and biggest problem with the series overall is that it’s not an Adam Strange series. Not really. Sure, the characters are in it, but they are nothing like any version of Adam or Alanna Strange that we’ve ever seen in comics. If you renamed these characters and sold this book as an Image title? You wouldn’t even be able to tell that it was originally an Adam Strange pitch. And that’s the thing with King: he never actually writes the characters he’s supposedly writing. He writes his self-inserts and slaps a trademarked name on them, and then tries to pass it off as their story. He’s done this repeatedly, but it’s most egregious here and in Supergirl: Woman of Tomorrow.
King wants to tell modern superhero stories, with classic characters, but he doesn’t want to actually respect the things that make them classic. Even the glimpses of what could be a classic Adam Strange story (the Doc Shaner sections of the books) are the ones that explicitly make him a war criminal and traitor. It’s just another dull Tom King PTSD comic, this time with lasers instead of omega beams.
The other thing that really kills Strange Adventures #12 is that it feels like an anti-climax. It’s another problem that is persistent in King’s books, where everything that really needs to be said is said in the penultimate issue, leaving nothing for the final issue to actually do but be boring and quiet. Even as I write about this issue, much of it has left my head, because nothing of importance happened in this final issue.
Once more, King’s fans will likely love it, but for everyone else? You can probably just ignore this entire series, and wait five years before someone tries to make Adam Strange fun again.
Superman & The Authority #4
Writer: Grant Morrison
Artist and cover: Mikel Janín
Colorist: Jordie Bellaire
Letterer: Tom Napolitano
On the other end of the spectrum this week, we have Superman & The Authority #4. Grant Morrison much like Tom King, is grappling with how to tell a superhero story for a modern audience, and it’s very clear who does it better.
Grant tells a Superman story that struggles with a changing world, one that doesn’t fit the same ideals that Superman has always stood for, but does so in a way that they allow the character of Superman to shine through. You don’t need to change Superman to tell a modern story, you just have to look at him through a different lense.
Morrison’s Superman is one that is built on an undying persistent hope. Superman & The Authority is a through-line of Morrison’s career, a career that keeps coming back to Superman, but always slightly differently. Morrison first really tackled Superman in JLA, and that’s the version that is the monomyth. This is the Superman that is godlike. JLA Superman wrestles angels while questioning whether he can still hold his weight with his new powers. Then Morrison wrote All-Star Superman and crafted the essential stand-alone Superman story. This is the one you can hand to anyone and show them who Superman is. Then they did Action Comics and had an entirely different take on Superman. This time it was a younger Superman just coming into his own. It was a play on the Golden Age version of the character, in the same way All-Star could be read as a love letter to the Silver Age version.
And now ten years later Morrison returns for what they say is their final go at the character, and it’s a retrospective of their whole time on the character. It’s a Superman coming to terms with growing older, with seeing a world change in ways he wish it wouldn’t. But even still, it’s a Superman who holds on to hope, a Superman who radiates hope, a Superman who the very presence of inspires hope in others. Even in his twilight, Grant’s Superman exudes the very essence of 80 years of the character.
The one ding I have against this book is that it’s supposed to tie into the ongoing Action Comics series, but it really doesn’t because the Superman that Janín draws is much older in appearance than the one that appears in the other books right now. It’s clear this one is meant to be older than we’ve been seeing, but I can forgive it because Janín makes him look so good.
If you want a series that grapples with a superhero’s role in a modern world, Superman & The Authority is a perfect pick.
- I can’t say enough good things about Andrea Sorrentino’s art in Batman: The Imposter #1. It has a pulpy feel that’s perfect for an early days Gotham story, and the layout choices are dynamic and interesting.
- Batman ’89 #3 finally gives us Billy Dee Williams as Two-Face, and it’s every bit as amazing as I’d hoped. That plus the return of Catwoman really made this issue shine for me.
- It’s nice to see a Batwoman story finally show up in Batman: Urban Legends #8, it would be nice if she could get her own series again sometime soon, now that Batgirls was finally announced.
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