Writer: Tom King, Artists/Colorists: Mitch Gerads and Evan “Doc” Shaner, Letters: Clayton Cowles, Cover A: Mitch Gerads, Cover B: Eric Shaner.
To say that expectations are high for Tom King and Mitch Gerads’ DC Black Label series Strange Adventures would be a huge understatement. They’ve set the bar pretty friggin high for themselves on the follow-up to their critically-acclaimed and Eisner Award-winning collaboration on 2019’s Mister Miracle.
DC is once again reviving their 1950s title Strange Adventures, which started as a mystery/horror anthology, before adapting its title to read Adam Strange Adventures, to feature their new sci-fi hero. But with Tom King’s name attached, it would be foolish to expect to see Adam Strange in a bright, positive, futuristic saga. Instead, expect 12 issues of conflict, torture, love, and war. The light and dark cover mirror images were certainly indicators of how things were going to be for Adam, featured as this week's POP Cover Of The Week. And as a Black Label title which takes place outside of normal DC continuity, anything goes, and anything can happen, and very graphically.
BUT FIRST, SOME STRANGE HISTORY: Adam Strange is a modern-day Earthman who was accidentally struck by a teleportation beam that carried him 25 trillion miles away to the technologically-advanced and futuristic planet Rann. He grew to become the Protector of Rann, husband to his alien bride Alanna, and father to their daughter Aleena,. His strange adventures were interrupted each time the energy of the Zeta Beam charge stored in his body wore off, returning him to Earth, where he had adventures with Earth heroes while he awaited the next timed beam to take him back to Rann.
Issue #1 opens with Adam, now retired and living on Earth with his Rannian wife Alanna, consumed by a book tour about his war memoirs, meta-titled Strange Adventures, sporting the same Doc Shaner cover as the comic. Picture Adam West, well into mid-life, still signing books in his Batman costume. The drudgery of the tour is communicated by the repetitive scenes of Adam sticking out his hand to the viewer, saying “Hi, I’m Adam. Can I sign a book for you?”
While the Earth scenes are drawn by Gerads, flashbacks to the war on Rann against an invading force are illustrated by Shaner. A black humor dichotomy: Adam’s laser gun spewing childlike sound effects (“PewPew”) are followed by scenes of massive destruction as each blast hits.
As any of us who have lived through wars and conflict realize, things are not/cannot be black and white. There are always gray areas, where things don’t go as planned, and misconduct and collateral damage tragically happens. Questions about Adam’s war experiences begin to arise, and he feels the need to defend his honor. In the panel sequence when he tells the press “These are lies,” Alanna reacts with dismay and the coloring of that entire panel pales, implying that Adam’s statement may not be truthful.
And in what is surely biting commentary on whose Truth should you believe and the biased reporting of some of the real world media lately, the media covering Adam’s speech won’t leave it alone, digging deep for dirt and sensationalist headlines.
When one protester confronts Adam at a signing about his supposed war crimes is later found dead from a “laser wound to the head,” suspicions are so high that Adam did it, he even begins to believe it himself, and asks for help from a surprise guest star.
Side note: I gotta say I am not a fan of the lettering font Clayton Cowles uses; the upward slant of the usually horizontal strokes are distracting, and constantly take me out of the moment of the story.
As for Black Label content, the only instance I would consider mature is one panel featuring Adam and Alanna making love, and even then there is no gratuitous nudity. I suspect this series is Black Label mostly for its non-continuity storyline, and doesn’t include gratuitous material simply because it can or for shock value, which is refreshing.
Strange Adventures #1 from DC Comics is available March 4, 2020, and is an intriguing start to what will no doubt be a must-read event.
First Appearance: Showcase #17 (1958)
Mystery In Space #53-100 (1958)
The Man Of Two Worlds (1990)
Planet Heist (2004)
Rann-Thanagar War (2005)