Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Tom Strong Book Six Hardcover Review

Tom Strong Vol. 6
DC Comics - America's Best Comics
160 pages
$24.99 (2006) Hardcover
$17.99 (2006) Trade Paperback
ISBN 9781401211097

Contributors: Alan Moore, Chris Sprouse, Michael Moorcock, Jerry Ordway, Joe Casey, Ben Oliver, Steve Moore, Peter Hogan, Paul Gulacy, Jimmy Palmiotti, and Karl Story

Reprints: Tom Strong #31-36 (final issue)

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:
  • Two-part story
    • "Tom Strong and The Black Blade of the Barbary Coast - Part 1: The White Wolf's Secret" - Tom and Solomon are enlisted to help metatemporal investigator, Sir Seaton Begg. Travelling to the past they pose as pirates in order to win the confidence of Begg's archnemesis: Count Zodiac (now posing as Captain Zodiac). The good Count wishes to procure the fabled Black Blade and gain mastery over the multiverse!
    • "Tom Strong and The Black Blade of the Barbary Coast - Part 2: The Colour of Evil" - In the past Tom and Solomon accompany an armada of pirates led by Captain Zodiac on a quest to find the Black Blade. Can they possibly wrest control of the mystical artifact from the nemesis of Sir Seaton Begg?
  • "The Journey Within" - Pneuman is acting very strangely - running for mayor, starting a rock band. Tom tries to diagnose his mechanical man-servant's problem, but discovers a mystery. Tom and Solomon embark on a microscopic journey to find out: what is living in Pneuman?
  • "The Spires of Samakhara" - Tom investigates the land of Samakhara - a fictional place from a series of stories.  How can it exist and why did the Chinese government nuke it?
  • "Cold Calling" - A local jewelry exchange is robbed of precious diamonds by a pair of ice-wielding thieves. Tom suspects Greta Gabriel is involved, but hopes his old flame (now an ice-person) is innocent. Prepare for a shock ending when the new Dr. Permafrost shows up
  • "Tom Strong at the End of the World" - Promethea has triggered the end of existence and Tom Strong wades through the incredible phenomena along with the rest of the ABC heroes. He learns the answer to life's secrets as he strives one last time to be with his beloved family.  Is this really the End?
Pros: Final story of the series was excellent (what do you expect from Moore?), Paul Gulacy's art, Sprouse draws the final two tales

Cons: Moorcock's writing (seriously, more-cock? how did this guy survive past his teens?) is terrible, sub-par final set of stories leading up to the end

Mike Tells It Straight: Moore and Sprouse collaborate on the final story of Tom Strong's series. Guest artists/writers lead up to the ending with a slew of lame stories. This volume almost became my new least favorite (after volume 5), but the ending was completely worth it. If you've followed along this far then you won't be disappointed. We learn the last few startling secrets of Tom Strong's life as he gets a truly deserving finish. 

Final thoughts on the series - Tom Strong is a wholesome character with an enjoyable supporting cast. His adventures are light-hearted and interesting, but not essential reading for any well-known continuity. He's a good read due to the solid storytelling/art of Moore/Sprouse, but the constant guest writers/artists can detract from the overall experience. I'll probably pick up the two spin-offs: Tom Strong's Terrific Tales and Tom Strong and the Robots of Doom somewhere down the road, but with no sense of urgency.

TO BUY and Recommendations:
    TO BUY and Recommendations:

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Tom Strong Book Five Hardcover Review

Tom Strong Vol. 5
DC Comics - America's Best Comics
136 pages
$24.99 (2005) Hardcover
$17.99 (2005) Trade Paperback
ISBN 9781401206253

Contributors: Chris Sprouse, Mark Shultz, Steve Aylett, Brian Vaughan, Ed Brubaker, Pascal Ferry, Shawn McManus, Peter Snejbjerg, and Duncan Fegredo

Reprints: Tom Strong #26-30

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:
  • "The Day Tom Strong Renegotiated the Friendly Skies" - airplanes across the world can no longer fly. Tom Strong investigates and discovers a secret his father uncovered 100 years ago which allowed man to achieve flight! 
  • "Jenny Panic & the Bible of Dreams" - a strange corpse is found in Millennium City and Tom Strong investigates. He uncovers a girl with the mysterious power to breach the world of dreams.  She transforms Tom's world into a comic book parody and only one of the girl's dreams holds the key to saving the city
  • "A Fire in His Belly" - the origin and motivations of Pneuman are explored as we witness Susan Strong's final dying request of Pneuman - to ensure Tom never suffers! How far will Pneuman go to keep his word when his artificial morals are far different than our own? Features a battle with villainess, the Eye-Opener!
  • Two-part story
    • "The Terrible True Life of Tom Strong - Part 1" - Tom, Tesla, and Solomon track down a former sidekick of Paul Saveen's turned major science criminal - Eldon Morovia. He is trying to hijack reality with an ancient Mayan jewel/helmet artifact. Tom and crew seemingly stop the scoundrel, but then Tom wakes to his real life - mundane factory worker!
    • "The Terrible True Life of Tom Strong - Part 2" - Tom's therapist attempts to cure him of the bizarre dreams of being a science-hero and return him to the working world. The delusions get stronger when an accident happens at the factory where Tom works. Is he completely crazy or is there a larger conspiracy under the drab surface of his life?
Pros: Wide range of great writers/artists contributed, a few interesting concepts

Cons: Moore completely missing from book, wide range of art/writing styles are jarring, low page count with high volume price = unfair

Mike Tells It Straight: Moore and Sprouse are wholly absent from this volume (Sprouse still contributes covers) with a bevy of well-known writers/artists filling in. This volume was my least favorite so far, although the last three tales (including anchor story True Life) are decent. The price remains at $24.99 and $17.99 despite the low page count (which always rubs me the wrong way). Let's hope Moore and Sprouse return soon!

TO BUY and Recommendations:

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Tom Strong Book Four Hardcover Review

Tom Strong Vol. 4
DC Comics - America's Best Comics
160 pages
$24.95 (2004) Hardcover
$17.99 (2004) Trade Paperback
$39.99 (2010) Deluxe Hardcover Vol. 2
ISBN 9781401205720

Contributors: Alan Moore, Peter Hogan, Geoff Johns, Jerry Ordway, Chris Sprouse, Karl Story, John Paul Leon, and Dave Stewart

Reprints: Tom Strong #20-25

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:
  • Three-part story
    • "How Tom Stone Got Started: Chapter One" - a woman infiltrates the Stronghold late at night and is stopped for questioning by Tom Strong.  She recounts a tale where historical events took a decidedly different turn. In her story Susan Strong pauses for a moment before boarding the ship with her husband Sinclair bound for the island of Attabar Teru. Sinclair perishes in the fateful shipwreck instead of the ship hand, Tomas. Susan and Tomas fall in love, have a child, and name him Tomas. When Tomas is a young man he leaves the island to visit Millennium City and make a name for himself. He soon encounters Paul Saveen and the two spark up a friendship instead of bitter rivalry.  The natural progression of events continues to veer away from Tom Strong's familiar world 
    • "How Tom Stone Got Started: Chapter Two - Strongmen in Silvertime" - the impossible tale of the mysterious woman continues as the Stone/Saveen team battle various villains over the years. In this version the two heroes manage to reform evil-doers and soon the Strongmen of America group is born. Susan Stone visits Fingel Parallax and using his time machine travels back to a small shipping dock. Meanwhile the Strongmen meet Tom Strange on Terra Obscura and rescue his parallel earth from the devastating fate it suffered in Tom Strong's reality. In 1989 Fingel Parallax and his time machine are destroyed - no time travel will ever be possible again. The world of Tom Stone seems like a perfect utopia, but what could possibly have gone wrong?
    • "How Tom Stone Got Started: Chapter Three - Crisis in Infinite Hearts" - the bizarre tale of the unknown female intruder continues as Tom Stone betrays his best friend's trust while Paul Saveen explores the multiverse. Paul stumbles upon Funnyland and witnesses a much different dynamic between Warren Strong/Basil Saveen. The seed of doubt is planted and he soon discovers the truth - Tom Stone has betrayed him! Former friends become bitter enemies and the Strongmen are torn apart. Tom's parents side with him and Susan Stone slips between dimensions. Her bitter tale ends just as the battle follows her and Tom Strong must come face-to-face with Tom Stone! 
  •  "Moonday" - Svetlana X enlists Tom's help to find her husband Dimitri who is lost on the moon's surface. Tom recounts a tale where he encountered a group of bat-people living in underground caverns. Tesla and the Salamander accompany them, but Val Var Garm disappears. What really happened to Tom during his captivity all those years ago and can it save Dimitri's life?
  • "Snow Queen" - Greta Gabriel, long thought killed by Dr. Permafrost, resurfaces as an ice queen. She must come to terms with her new condition and Tom's life
  • "Tom Strong's Pal - Wally Willoughby" - young Wally visits Millennium City to get a picture taken with his hero Tom Strong. Incredibly bad and impossible things continue happening along Wally's route. It soon becomes clear there is more to Wally than meets the eye and Tom may be forced to become 'pals'
Pros: Moore's writing, alternate world of Tom Stone was really interesting, more Svetlana X!

Cons: Guest story by Geoff Johns was pretty terrible, no sketchbook, higher price continues for softcover collection from last volume's increase (thankfully more pages though)

Mike Tells It Straight: Full-length stories continue with an ambitious multi-part alternate universe tale anchoring this fourth volume. Chris Sprouse takes a break with Jerry Ordway filling in for Tom Stone's tragic story, then Moore is absent for the last three issues. Peter Hogan nails the feel of the book, but Geoff Johns misses it. This volume really outshines the previous two based on the twists in the Tom Stone tale.

TO BUY and Recommendations:

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Tom Strong Book Three Hardcover Review

Tom Strong Vol. 3
DC Comics - America's Best Comics
136 pages
$24.95 (2004) Hardcover
$17.95 (2004) Trade Paperback
$39.99 (2010) Deluxe Hardcover Vol. 2
ISBN 761941242101

Contributors: Alan Moore, Chris Sprouse, Karl Story, Howard Chaykin, Shawn McManus, Steve Mitchell, and Leah Moore

Reprints: Tom Strong #15-19

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:

  • "Ring of Fire" - the Salamander returns to kidnap Tesla and Tom must rescue her from the would-be suitor! 
  • Four-part story
    • "Some Call Him the Space Cowboy" - we're introduced to the Weird Rider, roaming interstellar cowboy.  He visits Venus and encounters the Modular Man before landing in Millennium City.  Tom Strong rallies to investigate the strange visitor
    • "Gone to Croatoan" - the Weird Rider recounts his origin which is linked to the abduction of the Devil's Footstool one hundred years ago.  An extraterrestrial threat is heading for earth and Tom must gather the help if the human race is to survive
    • "Ant Fugue!" - Tom and the Rider rally help from the Devil's Footstool in the form of the Stardust Cowboys, visit Venus to palaver with the Modular Man, and then talk with another mystery ally.  Svetlana X and the Strongmen of America show up to contribute too.  The group assails the impending extraterrestrial armada, but the Strongmen tag along and get in a pickle
    • "The Last Roundup" -  it's a battle royale in space to stop the aliens from devastating earth and rescuing the Strongmen from their clutches.  Can the combined force of Tom's family and friends overcome to save the day?
  • "Electric Ladyland" - Tom must rescue Dhalua from a secret society of women.  The women need help with a chemical that turns men into women
  • "Bad to the Bone" - we get to see the final fate of Paul Saveen
  • "The Hero-Hoard of Horatio Hogg!" - Tom and Tesla visit a comic convention and get trapped in a lunatic's comic book
Pros: Moore's writing, Svetlana X is hilarious! She actually made the Strongmen of America mildly tolerable, sketchbook pages

Cons: Guest artists/stories are not as good, the Strongmen of America are still pretty lame, the price for the trade paperback version jumps considerably compared to the previous two softcover collections

Mike Tells It Straight: Once again the story formula changes for the third volume as the guest artists and anthology stories reduce in frequency. Each volume seems to have one multi-part anchor story.  This time earth and Tom's family are threatened directly. The first story with the Salamander reminds me a bit of the FF's relationship with Namor and a good addition. Moore begins tying many of the previous sub-stories together to weave a grander tale. I can't get enough of Svetlana X after her introduction here and love her throwback Russian way of talking. Overall this volume was more cohesive than the last, but just as enjoyable.  My two major gripes are having the page count drop with the hardcover price staying the same and the softcover collection price increases.  Bah!

TO BUY and Recommendations:

Friday, January 7, 2011

Tom Strong Book Two Hardcover Review

Tom Strong Vol. 2
DC Comics - America's Best Comics
192 pages
$24.95 (2002) Hardcover
$14.95 (2002) Trade Paperback
$39.99 (2009) Deluxe Hardcover Vol. 1
$39.99 (2010) Deluxe Hardcover Vol. 2
ISBN 761941233093

Contributors: Alan Moore, Chris Sprouse, Al Gordon, Alan Weiss, Paul Chadwick, Gary Gianni, Russ Heath, Kyle Baker

Reprints: Tom Strong #8-14

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:
  • "Riders of the Lost Mesa" - Tom and Solomon investigate the mysterious reappearance of the Devil's Footstool Mesa and the town located at its peak.  They discover the town's inhabitants have changed considerably in the 100 years since they disappeared!
  • "The Old Skool!" - starring Timmy Turbo and the Strongmen of America.  Sue Blue gets abducted by a secret society of educators who believe corporal punishment is the only way children will learn
  • "Sparks" - Tesla investigates a volcanic eruption and discovers an underground tribe of humanoids.  Their leader shows a special interest in her and thus begins the introduction of the Salamander!
  • "Terror Temple of Tayasal!" - Tom aids in the excavation of a strange rock formation in the jungles of Guatemala. He encounters a strange creature from beyond the stars living beneath a Mayan temple
  • "Volcano Dreams" - Dhalua recounts her vision ordeal in the volcano where Tom's parents were killed when she was a teenager
  • "Flip Attitude" - Tesla faces off against Kid Tilt, the daughter of King Tilt.  She's out for revenge after her father is incarcerated
  • "Tom Strong and his Phantom Autogyro" - a spooky tale of Tom's past as he travels into the ectoplasmic underbelly of Millennium City
  • "Funnyland!" - riding his Searchboard, Tom stumbles into a cartoonized dimension where he meets Warren Strong, the Bunny of Bravery!  They must team up to save Warren's wife Patience from his arch-enemy Basil Saveen
  • "Too Many Teslas?" - unable to resist trying the Searchboard, Tesla accidentally opens a rift in spacetime and watches in horror as multiple versions of herself spill into her dimension.  The problem -- they don't get along!
  • Two-part story
    • "Strange Reunion" - Tom Strange crash lands on Earth after travelling across the galaxy from his home -- a bizarre identical Earth called Terra Obscura!  His planet faces a grave threat and he enlists Tom's aid after his own planet's greatest science-heroes failed.  Tom recollects his first encounter with the eerily identical planet
    • "Terror on Terra Obscura!" - Tom Strong and Tom Strange battle to free Terra Obscura's heroes and fight back the planetary menace holding the world hostage
  • "The Family Strong and the Tower at Time's End!" - four Strong-related heroes are called together to rescue spacetime from a nefarious legion of dimension-spanning Saveens.  They are Tom Strong, Warren Strong, Tesla Strong, and Young Tom Strong. Who is the cryptic Timekeeper?
  • "Space Family Strong" - a hilarious space vacation for the Strong Family
  • "Land of the Heart's Desire!" - Tom and Dhalua explore a planet where there merest thought or desire is fulfilled -- much to their dismay!
  • "Baubles of the Brain Bazaar!" - Tom and Johnny Future must rescue Dhalua and Jermaal (Johnny's cat-man sidekick) from being used as brain power sources in the far future
Pros: More good writing by Moore (pun!), quality art, small sketchbook section, lots of interesting concepts thrown around

Cons: Some mildly corny bits - Funnyland, Timmy Turbo and the Strongmen of America (again!), stories are still PG-rated, big cast of artists makes the book less cohesive with jarring art style changes

Mike Tells It Straight: The story formula changes in this second volume of Tom Strong, becoming more akin to an anthology book with a slew of guest artists. Most artists would jump at a chance to work with Moore and it's no surprise we see so many in this collection. This set of stories runs the gamut of old pulp themes and introduces exclamation points for every title! The art styles are radically different and it noticeably detracts from the readability of the book.  Fortunately the Terra Obscura tale anchors the volume a bit.  Moore's writing continues to be excellent and the emphasis here is on family - we get to see more of the supporting cast in the limelight. Although possessing a wide range of story quality this volume is another charming entry for Tom Strong.

TO BUY and Recommendations:

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: