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Tom Strong's Terrific Tales #6

Posted: Tuesday, February 25, 2003
By: Jason Cornwell



Writers: Alan Moore & Steve Moore
Artists: Jerry Ordway, Arthur Adams & Alan Weiss

Publisher: America's Best Comics

Plot:
The first story in this book looks in on Tom Strong as he carries out a rather dangerous experiment with a ten percent solution of goloka concentrate, and we see he quickly begins to feel the mind-bending effects of this overdose. As Tom embarks on his drug trip we see he starts way out in space, and then he rapidly advances closer & closer to his own body, before entering his unmoving body and continuing to descend to the subatomic level, when he is awakened. The second story is a Jonni Future adventure, where we see the heroine is moving around in a Eden like garden paradise, when she finds herself confronted by multiple versions of herself, and what’s more these doubles appear to be quite eager to get to know her better. We then see her shocked out of this dream state, where we learn the dream was the result of her exposure to a dangerous alien pollen. The third & final story is a Young Tom Strong adventure as we see during his investigation of the island, the young hero discovers an underground settlement. However, when he has a rather nightmarish encounter with the tribe that lives in these caverns, we see he awakens to find the entire encounter was a vision induced by vapors that were present in the tunnels.

Comments:
The opening story in this issue has the rare distinction of being the first Alan Moore written material that I drew absolutely no enjoyment from. I mean there's plenty of material written by him that I've yet to read, and I'm sure like most writers even the great Alan Moore has some god awful stories that even his most ardent fan would admit to being not so good. However what makes this opening story so surprising is that it fails to deliver anything interesting, and if nothing else this is the main reason why Alan Moore has been a very welcome name in the credit boxes over the years, as he's been able to turn something that could've been mind numbingly dull, and at least deliver one scene where I found myself happily surprised by some idea or concept that he managed to unearth. However, try as hard as I might, and I simply can't say the same about this opening chapter, as much like those annoying attempts to convey the surreal nature of a drug trip that one finds in several movies from the late 1960s/early 70s, even the most skilled director ends up with a sequence that quickly becomes annoying after one gets the idea of what they are trying to show us. Maybe this comic is one where one has to be on drugs to enjoy it.

After I had made my way through the opening story and was prepared to write it off as a creative miscue on Alan Moore's part, I was rather disappointed to discover that the entire issue was devoted to delivering stories with a similar theme as both Jonni Future & Young Tom Strong end up in stories where they are subjected to imagery that is influence by a drug induced state. Now I'll concede that Jonni Future's chapter has the advantage of being so downright surreal in its delivery of its idea that I found entire sequences rather amusing, but truth be told one could also easily dismiss the material as utterly shameless in its delivery of a story that has Jonni chased around by naked versions of herself, while she is missing her top. However, as tends to be the case in most issues of this series it's the Young Tom Strong chapter that ends up being the weakest of the bunch, but it does manage to find a new way of arriving at it's usual third place positioning, as up until the final "it was all a dream" final page, I was rather enjoying the story of Tom discovery of an underground colony. However in a single page Steve Moore manages to send the message that the most enjoyable section of the story wasn't real, and the building sense of excitement generated by the encounter didn't require a resolution beyond the downright simplistic one he offers us.

I'm glad to see Art Adams found his way back into these pages, as while Jonni Future is far from being my favorite project he's ever worked upon, the concept does look to be one that he's quite happy with, and in return I get a place where I can expect to find his art on a more-or-less regular basis. Now this month's adventure is a rather odd affair that is equal parts a sex dream, and based on Jonni's reaction a nightmare, but Art Adams deserves credit for making it pretty obvious that we were being treated to a drug induced scenario, and there were a couple rather bizarre touches like the lip flowers, and the panel where Jonni is running away from a stampede of naked versions of herself that I found rather innovative. As for the rest of the book, the opening chapter features art by the ever reliable Jerry Ordway, and I couldn't be more pleased by the idea that he's got an upcoming run on "Wonder Woman", as he's a fantastic artist. He does a wonderful job on this opening chapter, capturing Tom's drug trip, as it starts out with a nice sense of wonder, and the slowly turns into a nightmare. As for Alan Weiss' work, once again the art is perfectly sound, and when the action breaks out the art conveys a nice sense of danger, but once again the strong art is let down by a weak script.

Final Word:
This issue is probably the weakest effort to come out of the America's Best Comic line, as the theme that ties together the three stories is a very weak idea, and even Alan Moore is unable to do anything interesting with it. The first story is a purple prose that quickly grows tiresome after it becomes clear that it isn't interested in doing anything more than making profound observations about nothing. The second story is a little more enjoyable, as how can one not love a story where the big draw is Art Adams getting to draw a garden filled with naked Jonni Futures. It's not a terribly deep story in spite of its attempt at appearing like it is on the final page, but it's silly enough, and so terribly blatant at what it's trying to do that I found it amusing. As for the final story, it was a moderately enjoyable affair up until its god awful final page that completely torpedoes all the excitement the previous pages had managed to develop.



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