Strange Adventures is a highly political and psychologically probing series that is back this week, continuing a story that is at face value not political at all. Tom King, Mitch Gerads, and Doc Shaner have been peeling back the onion of a narrative about a sci-fi super soldier in Adam Strange who has seen and done things unimaginable to the public. To the Justice League, even, but he did what he thought was right. In the latest issue, the Pykkts are attacking Earth and while all that is going on Batman has released a damning report on what Strange has done in the name of good and justice.
If you haven’t guessed, this series has asked tough questions of its readers as it has revealed a superhero who isn’t squeaky clean in his actions. Whether what he has done is right or wrong is never hand-delivered to the reader — instead, we’re meant to gather the information as we see it and decide. Meanwhile, we’re still in the dark as far as every detail, similar to the report Batman reveals to the world in this issue, which further muddies the moral core of Adam Strange’s acts. We do know he’s been tortured, and we do know he’s killed Pykkts as if they were inhuman monsters.
This series has not sugar-coated a single element, and it’s hard not to consider its deeper meaning when the United States continues to fight wars in faraway lands. Similar to the news of drones killing people in villages, this book makes us ponder the “enemy” in a way that can be haunting, difficult, and disturbing.
At face value, this series continues to reveal Adam and his wife’s actions as more than likely unnerving and wrong. And yet, they are the main heroes of this narrative. It’s impossible to say if the narrative will have a definitive answer whether Strange was right or wrong, but given how it has forced readers to ponder the razor’s edge Strange walks, it’s likely we’ll have to come to our own conclusions. The greater good, so to speak, is something you’ll be wondering about and it’s in these ponderings that the book shows its strength. Strange Adventures #9 continues the series’ ability to make you think. That makes this narrative not for everyone, but its challenging nature does give it the unique flavor that sets it apart from the rest.
This issue does well to capture the outsider point of view from characters like Mr. Terrific and Superman, reminding us they always do the right thing and juxtaposing well with Strange reeling from some of his horrible acts being revealed to the world. This plays into further commentary on American culture through familiar-looking talk shows with the talking heads approving of what Strange has done to keep Earth safe. It’s riveting to see how this narrative is brightly lit and heroic at face value, but deep down it’s a horrifying example of how we as a society can be okay with murder if it helps us.
Gerads and Shaner’s art continues to blend together more closely than in past issues as Shaner reveals a horrible war crime of an act and Gerads continues to show us the war on Earth. Gerads’ style is edgy and dark, which suits the internalized pain and frustrations Strange is feeling. Shaner’s cleaner superhero style continues to trend to a dark place, which helps convey the dark place the narrative is going compared to the first few issues.
Visually, we get to see Strange do a lot, looking cool zipping around and killing aliens or going covert and planting a weapon inside Pykkts territory while heroes like Batman and Mr. Terrific are more solitary and somber. This helps convey the fact that Strange has done terrible things and other heroes can’t stop the machine of death and destruction already set into motion.
For those looking for even deeper interpretations, this issue also quotes Psalm 31:10 which is all about grief. Considering what Strange has done in the name of losing a daughter, it’s a rather well-chosen passage from the Bible. It adds yet another layer to Strange’s sorrow, and how grief can disturb how we feel and act and injures us. Again, take from that what you will, and now it may connect to acts taken in our lives.
Strange Adventures continues to be a fascinating series to ponder and read over as we attempt to understand the characters and what they have done. It’s unclear if there will ever be answers, but that’s kind of the point. When it comes to war and retaliation, King, Gerads, and Shaner have shown it’s all very complicated, and in the face of the perfect heroic model, downright horrifying. For that, Strange Adventures holds up a mirror to ourselves in a way superhero comics rarely do.
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