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Tom Strong #21 [Jason C.]

Posted: Thursday, September 4, 2003
By: Jason Cornwell



Writer: Alan Moore
Artists: Jerry Ordway (p), Trevor Scott, Karl Story & Richard Friend (i)

Publisher: America's Best Comics

Plot:
The book opens with Tom Strong's mysterious visitor, who claims she's from a parallel Earth, continuing her story of how the Tom Strong of her world rose to become her world's greatest champion. With his steadfast ally/best friend Paul Saveen we see the other Tom Strong embarked on a series of adventures that are strikingly similar to those we witness our Tom Strong have, as he battles the evil Nazi super-woman Ingrid Weiss, time travels into the far past to encounter the living land mass Pangaean, is visited by a scientist ready to transfer his consciousness into a self replicating modular technology, and he even is called upon by Tom Strange to rescue Terra Obscura from a hostile alien life form. However unlike Tom Strong who defeated all these threats in combat, we see on this parallel world his counterpart & Paul Saveen managed to recruit most of these villains to fight for the side of good, and together they formed a band of heroes named the Strongmen of America. However, we see there is one detail that is the same on both worlds as we learn on this parallel Earth Tom Strong is in love with Dhalua, and this presents a problem as she's married to Paul Saveen. We then learn that this parallel Earth was ripped apart by a tragedy that stems from this love triangle, and that this woman has arrived to see her world never comes to exist.

Comments:
This arc has gotten a little too caught up in reinvisioning how the world of Tom Strong would be changed if he had been born to a different father, but it's also rather effectively exposing the flaw in the real Tom Strong's psychological make-up, as while his double is able to redeem the villains he fights and make them into allies, our Tom Strong has continually treated the villains he fights as evil monsters who need to be defeated and locked away. Now the idea that every villain that Tom Strong fought would be a fine upstanding citizen ready to fight the good fight is a bit overstated, as it fails to play up the idea that there are some villain's whose personalities are ill-suited to being heroes, and one has to be a little disturbed by how prepared Paul Saveen was with his mind altering device, which he uses to change the fevered devotion that Weiss felt toward the Nazi party into a fevered devotion toward truth, justice and the American way. Than again the story does seem to suggest that the alternate reality we've been introduced to did go off the rails at some point, and most likely it resulted from the longing looks that the alternate Tom was giving Saveen's wife Dhalua, who we learn is dead in the alternate reality. This has been a pretty decent look at a world that might've been, and I like the idea that this second world isn't the typical hellish environment we're normally treated to.

I have to say that I rather enjoy the effort that Alan Moore has made fashioning this second reality, but I do have to wonder if he's made a little too much effort, as the solution to this crisis looks remarkably simple to resolve, as all Tom has to do is travel back to stop his mother from delaying the launch of the boat. Than again if you really want to start the headaches than if Tom goes back to prevent his mother from impacting the timeline, than the altered timeline would shift so that his mother would die before she reached the stage of her life where she decided to change the past, which in turn would erase Tom's reason for having to go back. There's also the fact that if there's no alternate reality created via the mother's trip to the past, than Tom's visitor from this alternate reality would also cease to exist, which in turn would erase Tom's motivation for making the trip into the past. In any event, given the effort & time that Alan Moore has made in fashioning this new reality I'm a bit disappointed to see such an easy fix has been left in play, and while I'm not entirely sure if Tom Strong has access to a time machine in this reality, given next issue is listed as the final chapter, and the book still has to explain what went wrong in this other reality, I imagine the quick & easy time travel solution will be brought into play, and this entire story will instantly be erased.

First off I love the homage cover that Chris Sprouse offers up, as it's a lot of fun to drag out the old issues and compare the images, from the placements of the characters & cover text blurbs, to seeing which characters are taking which character's place on this new cover. As for the interior art Jerry Ordway is always a welcome sight on any title as his work is clean, yet nicely detailed, and his understanding of the key elements of comic book art have been well honed by his decades in the industry. I mean this issue covers a great deal of ground, as essentially Alan Moore is condensing the first year of issues into a single one, as this realities Tom Strong encounter four different threats that have plagued our Tom Strong, and this issue not only resolves these threats but also shows us the formation of this group into a band of heroes. Now the art deserves full marks for making this rather information heavy issue into an easily understood, and visually exciting affair, and in some cases it's the art that truly sells the impact of a section of the story, as how can one not enjoy the contrasting image of the happy Tom & company before they journey into the distant past, which is instantly followed by their harried appearance upon their return. The look of longing that Tom gives the passing Dhalua is also effectively done, as it nicely forecasts the impending betrayal.

Final Word:
If you're a fan of the concept of alternate realities than you should be quite please with this arc, as it's a pretty in-depth look at what the world would be like if Tom had been born to a father who hadn't been a cold dispassionate scientist, but rather a caring figure who taught him the value of compassion. I rather like the idea that the parallel Earth that was created is not a hellish place, but rather the world actually looks a fair sight better. Now the simple logistics of the story seem to be forced into the development of a tragic event, that will ensure this other reality has to be erased, and I'm curious as to what Alan Moore has cooked up that will render this other reality as the bad apple of this pair, as at the moment if one had to choose, the parallel Earth looks far more deserving of a continued existence. I also enjoyed how this issue has managed to condense the various threats that Tom faced in the previous issues, as this issue acts as a fun little slide show of how this world differs from the established reality.



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