Growing up in the nineties I was around for the genesis of Image Comics and as a result I am both constantly amazed at the quality of material coming out of the studio now. While the Image Comics universe has its own internal consistancy it is never so weighty as that in the other “big two” competitors and the lack of having to rely on a decades old universe (even if you throw said universe out) seems to allow the folks at Image to tell stories with an of creativity and pure fun that often far eclipse that of other major comic book publishers. The carbon copy heroes of Image’s genesis have faded into the background allow new talent and new heroes to jump to the foreground. While much of Image’s catalog still offers generous throwbacks to the publisher’s that spawned superhero comics, Image has really come into its own as a publisher.
The Strange Talent of Luther Strode is sort of a superhero story and sort of isn’t. It borrows much in terms of background from the violence and characters of Kick-Ass but ups the violence to new levels and tosses in a dose of the titular “strange” into the mix. Luther Strode is sort of your average geek. He lives with his mother and together he and his mom have survived they abuse of his father who is now in jail. On a whim Luther orders a goofy strength training manual and despite initial misgivings he finds that it works…maybe a bit too well. The primary question that the comic asks is what would happen if someone was given these amazing powers. We’ve seen this explored through Spiderman’s “with great power comes great responsibility.” But with the Luther Strode that line seems to be more “with great power comes great power.” We all like to think we would be heroes but The Strange Talent of Luther Strode examines the question of just how much a hero an average person given seemingly unlimited power can be. This is an often shockingly violent comic, to the point of almost near nausea, but one whose violence is almost hipnotic and intrinsicly tied to the story’s plot. It is rendered in style thanks to the dynamic art by Tradd Moore whose style is similar to, and on par with if not better than, John Romita Jr.. The colorist Felipe Sobreiro deserves recognition for the vibrant work that makes the art pop and the fact that the copious amounts of red splashed across many of the pages manages to never grow tiresome on the eyes. This is an entertaining book that tells a complete and satisfying story with an ending that will weigh heavy on the reader’s imagination but will hopefully spawn future adventures in this universe.
We3 and Joe the Barbarian below the jump!
The next 3 aren’t Image titles, both come from Vertigo a line that sort seems to have been lost in the shuffle with the whole New 52 event.
I think that Grant Morrison should really just have his own comic imprint. The man is a wellfont of ideas and stories that are either mind blowingly bizzare and often just plain cool. 2011 miniseries Joe the Barbarian is actually one of Morrison’s tamer ideas but still an elegant and moving story. Joe is a type 1 diabetic whose father died in Iraq and his mother is struggling to make ends meet and to make matters worse he is bullied at school and his class is going to a field trip to Arlington National Cemetery; a poignant reminder of his father’s death. Circumstance and bullying during this field trip lead to a hiccup in Joe’s habbits and by the time he is home finds himself slipping into a state of severe hypoglycemia. In this state Joe slips into a fantasy world made up of childhood hopes and memories where he is the expected savior. Or is it? The fantasy world of Joe’s mind is made up not only of his own memories but of his own hopes, fears, expectations, as well as the very real knowledge that death might be coming if he doesn’t get help soon. Joe the Barbarian is a wonderful story and Morrison’s writing along with Sean Murhpy’s ability to lend a touch of reality to surreal left me on the edge of my seat in a fear and apprehension for Joe’s life.
The more grounded nature of Joe the Barbarian stands in stark contrast to the more out there quality of Morrison’s early sci-fi miniseries We3. Running on the familiar sci-fi trope of science run amok of morality We3takes three household pets and turns them in to cybernetic killing machines designed to be used in the battefields. With enhanced intelligence and cybernetic suits the three animals, still at the core just simple animals, are equal parts terrifying and heartrending. Art duty rests on the shoulders of semi-frequent Morrison collaborator Frank Quietly. I’m not a huge fan of Quietly’s art, it doesn’t really mesh with my own expectations, but his style here (particularly with the humans being antagonists and our protagonists being animals) serves the story well and his attention to detail when it comes to the technology used in the three animals is nothing short of stunning. If you are an animal lover this is a story will definitely touch and definitely disturb you.