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Tom Strong #21 [Shawn H.]

Posted: Thursday, September 4, 2003
By: Shawn Hill



"Strongmen in Silvertime"

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

Publisher: ABC

Plot:
Damn that Alan Moore and his pernicious crossovers. First Tom Strong guests in the current story arc on Promethea, now here I am checking out Promethea's cameo in Tom's own book. Very clever, Mr. M.

Well, I definitely can't do this plot justice, as itís my first ever issue and it seems very complicated. In one reality, Tom Strong is interrogating an injured and mysterious woman who seems to know a lot about him. She tells of another reality where Tom Stone is his counterpart, and that doppleganger fights alongside reformed villain Paul Saveen. Furthermore, Saveen makes a practice of reforming other villains, so they together have assembled a team of "science heroes" to rival our Tom's own old outfit, America's Best.

Comments:
Unlike a lot of readers, I *like* it when I don't get everything at first. I don't need a "jumping on point," I just need for an issue to look good and have enough ideas to draw me in. With the team of Ordway and Moore, both fronts are well-covered. Now the joys of back-issue bin searching await!

From what I can tell, Moore is using all this complexity to do one of his familiar riffs on comics history according to the major big companies. I may have read this before in Supreme and 1963, but I think I prefer it here. Mysterious narrator (can't tell if she's his alternate mom or the reformed Nazi Ingrid Weiss) tells of the history of her alternative clan, including her own world's War no. 2. Through her, Moore is able to reference the real world "science hero" doldrums of the fifties, the revival of interest in comics in the sixties and the complicated multiplicity since the seventies.

America's Best is my real interest here, and that team (seen in the fifties) has an odd membership to rival Moore's League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (and woman). There's Cobweb (a Phantom Lady type), Promethea (Wonder Woman), an Adam Strange in purple, and a human ink blot. In a sequence of funny scenes, Tom Stone turns down their offer of membership, and then spends years fighting them pointlessly until he gets them to see the meaninglessness of their rivalry.

Ordway keeps everything clear and has a few funny ideas of his own, as far as background costuming and the diversity of heroes who pop up as styles change and careers evolve. A particular change of nationalistic loyalty is especially clever. The multiple inkers let him down occasionally, but not too jarringly. Top it off with a pristine cover by Chris Sprouse, and you've got a solid, action-packed issue of excellently self-referential comics entertainment. Darn that Alan Moore, up to his old tricks as always. You'd think he created his own private playground for just this purpose!



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