Graphic Novel/Comics Review

Tom Strong Book 3

(2004) Alan Moore, Chris Sprouse & Karl Story, Titan Books, 24.99, 138pp, hrdbk, ISBN 1-840-23680-9


This edition collects issues 15-19 of the eponymous comic, the first four issues of which tells the story of an attempted alien invasion of Earth, heavily using characters and concepts introduced in earlier issues - in other words, this is not the place to begin reading this title. The fifth of the issues presented here reverts to the format of a trio of short stories; the first using guest artist (and fan favourite) Howard Chaykin, and the second (the final tale of arch-enemy Paul Saveen) is written by one of Alan's daughters, Leah, and drawn by Shawn McManus. Like most of the America's Best Comics line this book will be most enjoyed by older readers, not because the content is particularly "adult" (in the modern comics' sense of the term), but because the titles are so in love with the comics of Alan's youth - and he's getting older every day. Which is not to say that younger readers won't enjoy this stuff. Quite the opposite. These are perfect comics of innocence and optimism, with heroes that aren't borderline psychotics, heroes that can be looked up to without cynicism. The only bad thing about this book, once again, is the price at which Titan are selling it. The US price is $24.95 (which Titan will get considerably cheaper) and the exchange rate as I write is still nearly $1.80 to the pound so, even given import and distribution costs, a UK price of 24.99 is indefensible. Chances are that you can 'import' this book yourself from Amazon USA, including postage, for less than you'd find it in this country. Someone at Titan needs to think on...

Also available recently, a spin-off from Tom Strong, is Terra Obscura (Titan Books, 10.99, tpb, 158pp, ISBN 1-84023-860-7), originally available as issues 1-6 -- much more reasonably priced when compared to the above volume. Co-plotted by Alan Moore, the scripts are by Peter Hogan and the art by Yanick Paquette and Karl Story. Terra Obscura is a parallel Earth on the other side of the galaxy, originally found by Tom Strong in 1968 (in internal continuity terms) and saved from alien enslavement by him in 1998 (ditto). The world has its own 'science-heroes', including an analog of Tom Strong named Tom Strange - these heroes bear more than a passing resemblance to "Golden Age" comic book heroes. The events in this book begin three years after Tom Strong saved the day and several of the native heroes died or retired. As those that remain try to come to terms with their new lives a terrifying technology plague starts to spread, shutting down systems as it expands, and Tom Strange is missing. Can the heroes of supergroup SMASH reform and defeat the threat, or is this the end for Terra Obscura? The scripts aren't as crisp as Alan's and the art is a bit loose and cartoony, but on the whole I'd say this is a creditable addition to the ABC line.

Tony Chester

Other Alan Moore graphics/books previously reviewed at the time of this posting (Sept 2004) are: The Absolute League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Promethea book 1, Promethea Book 2, Swamp Thing: A Murder of Crows, Tom Strong Book 1 and Top 10 book 1. Check out the Fiction Reviews Index to see if there is anything more recent.

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