The Multiversity: The Society of Super-Heroes 1 (November 2014)

The Multiversity: The Society of Super-Heroes #1

Besides the awkward bookends, which writer Grant Morrison seems to be writing as close to pulp as possible, The Society of Super-Heroes is an excellent Multiversity tie-in. Chris Sprouse is the perfect artist for the time period–it’s set in the forties or fifties, with some familiar heroes in newly designed, functional, period appropriate garb.

Morrison is real fast when it comes to establishing the characters–the Al Pratt Atom and Doc Fate get about the most attention–and there’s a mix of pulp sensibility and old science fiction magazine stories. It works out pretty well in the setup, but then Morrison and Sprouse get to the action and nothing else really matters. The comic is fast and entertaining.

There’s some rather nice work in the dialogue too, with Morrison handling the large cast through brief expository dialogue.

Until the really lame, tying to the greater event denouement. Until then, it’s quite good.

B 

CREDITS

Conquerors from the Counter-World; writer, Grant Morrison; penciller, Chris Sprouse; inkers, Karl Story and Walden Wong; colorist, Dave McCaig; letterer, Carlos M. Mangual; editor, Rickey Purdin; publisher, DC Comics.

Tom Strong 24 (March 2004)

Tom Strong #24

What did I just read? Hogan’s back writing again and he does a decent enough job scripting, but the plotting is a disaster.

It starts okay–Tom Strong’s ex-girlfriend (from the thirties) turns out to be a cryogenically preserved ice person and he’s trying to help her. So he brings her home. One might think it would lead to all sorts of interesting scenes between his wife and the ex-girlfriend, maybe Tesla and the ex-girlfriend but no… nothing. Hogan knows he should be doing that story because he hurries through a scene between Dhalua and the ex.

Instead, he sets up some possible future story. Not an important one, because he also doesn’t show how the ex-girlfriend’s reappearance has affected Tom (other than him trying to help her); there’s simply no weight to the story. It ought to weight six tons.

The art is gorgeous but the story is insincerely executed.

B- 

CREDITS

Snow Queen; writer, Peter Hogan; penciller, Chris Sprouse; inkers, Karl Story and John Dell; colorist, Dave Stewart; letterer, Todd Klein; editors, Kristy Quinn and Scott Dunbier; publisher, America’s Best Comics.

Tom Strong 23 (January 2004)

Tom Strong #23

Sprouse is back for this fast-paced done-in-one with Tom, Tesla and Val on the moon helping Svetlana find her missing husband. There’s a nice opening with Telsa and Val–he’s still learning English and it’s frustrating her. Even though it’s Peter Hogan writing, he manages to continue Moore’s light comedic touch, but always with some seriousness behind the humor.

But then there’s a kidnapping and a flashback. The flashback offers some insight into new father Tom Strong, something I don’t think Moore’s ever really covered. Hogan gets to show some cracks in the impervious Tom Strong skin and then shows how they get sealed.

The resolution keeps all the humor, not to mention Hogan referencing a nineteenth century newspaper hoax, but it goes further. He shows the depth of the friendship between Tom and Svetlana, as Tom quietly digests a big surprise.

It’s a fantastic, tender outing.

A 

CREDITS

Moonday; writer, Peter Hogan; penciller, Chris Sprouse; inker, Karl Story; colorist, Dave Stewart; letterer, Todd Klein; editors, Kristy Quinn and Scott Dunbier; publisher, America’s Best Comics.

Tom Strong 19 (April 2003)

Tom Strong #19

This issue, containing three different stories by two writers (Moore on the first and last, daughter Leah on the middle one) and three different art teams (Howard Chaykin on the first, Shawn McManus and Steve Mitchell on the second, regular artists Sprouse and Story on the third), is mostly awesome.

Moore and Chaykin do a domestic adventure for Tom and Dhalau in the first story; Dhalau is kidnapped and Tom has to save the day. Throw in a matriarchal society and Moore gets to explore gender in comics. Chaykin’s exuberant but a tad too loose.

Leah Moore and McManus do a decent enough story with villain Saveen. McManus’s art is excellent but the final twist is too predictable.

The final story is an awesome riff on comic readers and the love of classic comics as objects. It’s funny, smart and mildly disturbing.

It’s a discreetly ambitious commentary on the medium.

A- 

CREDITS

Electric Ladyland!; writer, Alan Moore; artist, Howard Chaykin. Bad to the Bone; writer, Leah Moore; artist, Shawn McManus. The Hero-Hoard of Horatio Hogg!; writer, Alan Moore; penciller, Chris Sprouse; inker, Karl Story. Colorist, Dave Stewart; letterer, Todd Klein; editors, Kristy Quinn and Scott Dunbier; publisher, America’s Best Comics.

Tom Strong 18 (December 2002)

Tom Strong #18

I think all of the jokes Moore gives Svetlana X–proud Russian science hero who has an interesting way of saying things (Moore gives her the cursing, only with accurate if misunderstood translation)–just primes for the big finish. He ends the story arc involving the giant space ants with a great cheap joke. There’s a lot of humor throughout, but the finish is an easy, wonderful joke.

Sprouse gets three big moments this issue. He’s an illustrating intergalactic battle and the script builds to each reveal. Sprouse has to make each bigger than the last. Given the first one involves a solar flare from the sun, it’s an accomplishment he’s able to properly amp up the others.

There’s good stuff with the supporting cast and Tom finally gets himself back in joint. He and Svetlana are hilarious together (he’s too polite to correct her).

As usual, Strong is reliable.

B+ 

CREDITS

The Last Roundup; writer, Alan Moore; penciller, Chris Sprouse; inker, Karl Story; colorist, Dave Stewart; letterer, Todd Klein; editors, Kristy Quinn and Scott Dunbier; publisher, America’s Best Comics.

Tom Strong 17 (August 2002)

Tom Strong #17

Moore’s subplot for this issue is Tesla and her fire monster boyfriend, Val. Mostly with her mom trying to keep the progress of their relationship quiet in front of Tom. It never gets a full resolution but Moore foreshadows one nicely.

The main plot is the preparation for the space battle against the giant ants. Giant space ants. Moore is kind of doing fifties sci-fi with the ants, but not exactly–Sprouse gets to mix sci-fi elements. It’s simultaneously retro and mainstream modern. Moore and Sprouse fit a lot into Tom Strong, they never let it get too much into one genre or another.

The only dragging scene is Tom going and visiting the intelligence on Venus or whatever planet. It’s a talking heads scene with a rock. It’s not bad, it’s just pointless.

Great subplot with the Strongmen too. Moore certainly appears to love writing for them.

B+ 

CREDITS

Ant Fugue!; writer, Alan Moore; penciller, Chris Sprouse; inker, Karl Story; colorist, Alex Sinclair; letterer, Todd Klein; editors, Neal Pozner, Kristy Quinn and Scott Dunbier; publisher, America’s Best Comics.

Tom Strong 16 (April 2002)

Tom Strong #16

Moore has a bunch of fun this issue. He enlists the Strongmen of America and they even get to sleepover with the Strong’s. The way he handles the absurdity of these kids getting to sleep over at a superhero’s is great and all, but having Dhalua call their mothers’ to get permission is even better.

And then there’s Tesla’s little fire monster boyfriend who Tom doesn’t like. That subplot’s wonderful because Moore shows it a little from Tom’s perspective–his daughter’s moon-eyed and he doesn’t approve–but Moore’s really showing it from Tesla’s. And she knows what she’s doing.

The main plot has to do with an alien invasion–it’s actually a little Cowboys vs. Aliens (I’m sure Moore was fine not getting credit for that movie) as the guest star is an intergalactic cowboy. Great details from Moore on that back story and some wonderful art.

Outstanding stuff.

B+ 

CREDITS

Some Call Him the Space Cowboy; writer, Alan Moore; penciller, Chris Sprouse; inker, Karl Story; colorist, Alex Sinclair; letterer, Todd Klein; editors, Neal Pozner, Kristy Quinn and Scott Dunbier; publisher, America’s Best Comics.

Tom Strong 15 (March 2002)

Tom Strong #15

Moore plots out the issue precisely, not just how he uses the action, but also how he uses Tesla. The issue is just as much hers as Tom’s… or maybe even a little bit more.

The issue opens with her disappearing under extreme circumstances. Tom, Dhalua and Solomon have to go rescue her. Moore gets his expository dialogue about Tesla’s history exploring volcanos done while he’s talking about the protective suits everyone is wearing. It’s a little thing, but brilliantly executed.

The issue then has some exploration before Moore brings Tesla into it. A lot of the issue is spent with Tom not thinking and Tesla thinking. The characters figure things out–Moore doesn’t pause to let the reader figure them out, the reader’s going to hear about them, Moore needs the characters to do it.

It’s an interesting form of action.

Excellent art from Sprouse and Karl Story too.

B+ 

CREDITS

Ring of Fire!; writer, Alan Moore; penciller, Chris Sprouse; inker, Karl Story; colorist, Matt Hollingsworth; letterer, Todd Klein; editors, Neal Pozner, Kristy Quinn and Scott Dunbier; publisher, America’s Best Comics.

Tom Strong and the Planet of Peril 6 (February 2014)

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Hogan’s a show-off. He’s great, he does a great job here, but he’s a show-off. After a very tense opening, things gradually calm down and resolve. Sprouse and Story mostly do talking heads for the first third of the comic.

Then comes this sequence with a presidential voiceover. At first it seems tedious–like Hogan’s trying to go for something obvious… but he’s not. It’s sincere and he sells it. Awesome sequence.

Then there are two or three more such sequences–none of these as great as that first one but featuring some excellent art throughout. Finally, after Hogan’s got his reader emotionally enthused, the kicker with Tom and his family’s resolution.

Here’s a comic about a guy flying across the galaxy to a duplicate Earth while accompanied by his fire-man son-in-law and it’s about the family. Hogan, Sprouse and Story do a wonderful job.

A 

CREDITS

The Bells; writer, Peter Hogan; penciller, Chris Sprouse; inker, Karl Story; colorist, Jordie Bellaire; letterer, Todd Klein; editors, Jessica Chen, Kristy Quinn, Ben Abernathy and Shelly Bond; publisher, Vertigo.

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