I said it once and I’ll say it again: Strange Adventures stands out as the most intellectually stimulating comic of the year. This book mixes political underpinnings, marital drama, and superheroes up in a nice complex bow of intrigue. Out today, Strange Adventures #5 continues to peel back layers to show us what is really going on with the cagey Adam Strange and his wife Alanna. What are they up to, what are they hiding, and will Earth survive their secrets?
This issue is all about the resolve Adam and Alanna have built up together through, specifically a past struggle we see in this issue. As we see them go through imprisonment and worse in the past, we see them in the present taking a step forward in controlling the narrative. The series continues to expertly cut between the past and the present–further delineated by Doc Shaner and Mitch Gerads drawing one or the other exclusively–increasing tension, informing readers as needed, and keeping you on your toes. This issue felt like the electric nature House of Cards had in its first season. We know Alanna is up to something, possibly bad, and we can’t wait to learn more as it happens.
Above all else, this issue is about survival, and how a person could become incapable of worrying about others and only out to save themselves. It shows how Alanna and Adam struggled and how this instilled something in them to never give up. In a lot of ways, it’s a reminder folks in politics aren’t wheeling and dealing because they like to, but because they feel they have to. It’s a dangerous combination and it’s at the same time walking a line of making it easy to understand their point of view and relate. Strange Adventures is showing us how a survivalist can be the most dangerous thing in society.
The art is some of the best you’ll see this week. Shaner continues to capture the superhero vibe of Adam Strange’s life on a faraway planet with a steady hand–quite literally at one point–on the tension in a scene. Gerads’ realistic style reflects a more believable world that juxtaposes nicely off the comic book pop of Shaner’s work. The scenes drawn by Gerads are littered with pops of life from photographs, the shine of the sun, and a warm glow that somehow makes the plotting by Alanna feel dirtier and wrong. She’s a viper and it’s obvious from the art we need to be wary of her next moves.
This issue reduces Adam Strange to a bystander who isn’t smart enough to know what’s going on. Strange is appearing to be childlike and disconnected from the bigger picture — he’s essentially a surrogate for the reader in a sense, but this issue renders him a bit too confused and unsure. He comes off too much like a dope and while he’s clearly been out of his league or looked stifled in previous issues, he’s nearly unrecoverable as a man of action or with any resolve at all. This is likely the point — to show how in the past he was a valiant textbook hero, but nowadays, he’s a softy — but it’s a bit too strong here, making it easy to dislike him and his wife. The pendulum swings too far, making it tricky to root for these characters.
There’s a line in this book that reads, “Superheroes are just needy celebrities in capes” that really resonates, thanks to our constant news cycle and our society’s obsession with celebrities. It’s a notion that is at the core of this book, as it reveals a plot by Adam and his wife to potentially ruin the glitzy and steadfast way of superheroes in the DC universe. Whether or not it’s true doesn’t matter, as it’s more about an outsider looking in and reducing superheroes to babies. This concept is an intriguing one as we attempt to figure out where the plan takes these characters.
I liked this issue, as it amps up the drama and the impending war while firmly establishing that Alanna is not to be trusted. The pacing and balance of art and detail continue to keep you on your toes. Strange Adventures is a gripping like the best primetime TV, dripping with excitement and delivered with precision.