Current Reviews


Tom Strong #18

Posted: Friday, November 8, 2002
By: Jason Cornwell

Writer: Alan Moore
Artists: Chris Sprouse (p), Karl Story (i)

Publisher: America's Best Comics

The book opens with Tom Strong calling off the solar flare attack that he was planning on using to vaporize the massive alien ship, as he has to go in and rescue the Strongmen (his teenage fan club), who foolishly flew their stolen spacehorse into the heart of the alien ship. As Tom & his Russian counterpart Svetlana enter the alien ship, we see they are able to battle their way through a host of aliens, before they reach the kids, who smartly sought refuge inside the force field that surrounds the spacehorse. Upon removing the children, we see Tom gives the go ahead to the solar flare, and the alien ship is blown to kingdom come. However, three escape crafts loaded with alien invaders manage to escape the doomed ship, and while Dhalua is able to destroy one with the saucer's cannons, the remaining two are speeding toward Earth. However, the Modular Man is able to take out another ship as the pass Venus, and the final alien ship is destroyed by another former threat that Tom Strong was able to recruit over to his side. With the alien menace ended we see the only problem left in Tom Strong's life is his daughter's new boyfriend, as even the key role he played in saving the Earth isn't enough to convince Tom this young man is good enough for his daughter.

I realize that it's not right to come down on this final issue, as almost every final issue of a big epic battle arc has to deal with the idea that the heroes almost always win in the end. As such when we see the various elements that Tom Strong brought into play start destroying the alien vessels, I really shouldn't be surprised to see them succeeding. However, other than a rather silly flash forward scene in the previous issue, that had Tom Strong & family stuck pulling a plow, this story has failed to really produce a sense that these invaders pose a serious threat. Now yes their hostile intent is quite clearly established, as it wouldn't do to have Tom Strong engaging in the wholesale slaughter that he does, if there was any suggestion that the intentions of these aliens weren't to conquer and enslave the planet Earth. However, this issue has Tom & his Russian counterpart Svetlana make their way into the middle of one of these ships, and the story utterly fails to convince me that they were in any real danger, which is a shame as this could've been a fairly intense bit of action. Except for the scene where one of Cole's posse is beheaded, one would think that these aliens are about as dangerous to humanity as the ant is to the kid holding the magnifying glass.

Then again I do have to congratulate Alan Moore for delivering a cosmic adventure that allowed him to show the reader that an Earth protected by Tom Strong is in pretty good hands. This issue shows us that Tom and his collection of allies are highly capable strategists, as we even though the attacks are only able deal with one ship at a time, they prove to be very effective at dealing with the ship that they do target. One also has to enjoy the idea that if you've been with this book from the start, then the cover's claim that "everybody's in this one!" is actually true to a certain degree, as this issue has itself ton of guest-stars, including a fairly surprising one that deals with the final alien ship. I also enjoyed how the Modular Man dealt with his alien ship, as it's such a simple method of dealing with the problem that I was actually caught off guard. In the end this issue is all about big action, as we see Tom Strong and his allies utterly decimate a hostile alien fleet, and I must admit that Alan Moore certainly captured the sense of grandeur that this big finish needed to have. Still, it would've been nice to see the alien threat come across as a little stronger when it came to defending themselves.

Chris Sprouse might be slower than the average artist, but he's certainly the ideal artist for this book, as I can't think of another artist whose style lends itself so perfectly to the storytelling style that Alan Moore employs on this book. The writing is simplistic, without being dull, or unintelligent. Tom Strong's world is simply less convoluted that the average comic book universe, as we see the problems he faces are largely black hat & white hats style problems, and Chris Sprouse's clean, uncluttered art fits this approach to Tom Strong world quite nicely. The art also does a great job of capturing the sheer scope of this story, as we have massive alien ships, devastating attacks, and the scenes inside the alien ship offer up a vessel interior that looks decidedly alien. There's also a nice scene where Tom and Svetlana locate where the children are, and we see they are literally buried under a swarm of giant ants. There's also the solar explosion, the giant crushing hand of the Modular Man, and the surprise guest-star that shows up to deal with the final attacker. In the end, this book has itself the perfect creative team, given it's lead character is a throwback to a simpler era of super-heroics.

Final Word:
A big, highly explosive finish to this latest arc, but this strong finish is hurt somewhat by the simple fact that the previous issues simply didn't do that good a job of showing us how dangerous these aliens were. I mean it's fine to show us that Tom Strong and the numerous allies he calls upon in this issue make for an impressive fighting force, and the art does a splendid job capturing the sheer spectacle of these attacks. However, the big finish loses a bit of its importance, when one actually stop to consider that these aliens never really made any counter attacks. Oh sure we see a character decapitated, and the general idea that these creatures are dangerous was established, but there was never really a moment in this issue where I felt Tom Strong was in any real danger of losing this fight, and in my book this is always a fatal flaw in any story. One also has to be a little concerned that Tom Strong was left with nothing to do but watch from the sidelines, as everyone else dealt with the alien threat.

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