Writer: Peter Hogan
Artist: Chris Sprouse(p), Karl Story(i), Dave Stewart(c)
"Snow Queen" is a superbly constructed super-hero story that relies upon the staples of pre-Crisis writing. Peter Hogan uses continuity, emotion and characterization to strengthen a very basic plot.
Mr. Hogan's employment of continuity does not preclude a new reader's entertainment. Even if not familiar with the history shared between Tom Strong and Greta, the reader will still feel it through the palpable emotion conveyed by Tom Strong's torment. Chris Sprouse's far too underrated artwork beautifully depicts this turmoil. He executes the direction of the writer perfectly and creates subtle nuances in expression that you really do not expect from his cubic designs.
Hogan creates a villain that fits an archetype, but more to the point he creates a villain which we have never seen before in Tom Strong that still carries the weight of a history that has never occurred. When I flipped through Superman/Batman or whatever the hell it's called at the Phantom of the Attic, I felt repelled because none of these characters mean anything to me. The fake Huntress, the doubly false Supergirl, the faux Batgirl who still might as well be a Bat Blow-up Doll all have zero history. They are cardboard. The villain, Greta and Tom Strong have a shared history--that's practically made from scratch--which the writer emphasizes and nurtures through this story. These characters have substance.
Characterization is the meat of any tale. I don't care how great the plot; if the characters do not appeal to the reader, the story will fail. If the plot is weak, the reader still can enjoy the characters that he or she likes. The plot is observed. The characters are felt. Greta seems like such a nice person with whom you immediately empathize: not just because of her being a pawn in the revenge against Tom Strong but also her estrangement from Tom whom in her frame of reference was her lover yesterday.
Tom Strong who usually acts and succeeds in being nearly infallible exhibits still fitting vulnerability that is also apropos given the situation. Tom while suffering and facing an impasse that he cannot surmount never stops trying. The reader can see that he cares deeply for Greta and feels that he has been granted a second chance to save her. The motivation gives Tom believability that raises him above being a mere symbol of a specific type of hero.
It occurs to me that once again Alan Moore, ironically, and ABC are doing something DC should have done years ago. If Babs Gordon is to be forever crippled, then at least have the decency to show me that Batman attempted to engage in every means possible to reverse her situation. (No, Mike. I'll never let this go. Babs being crippled irritates me on a fundamental level. She does not have to be crippled to be Oracle. She remains crippled for no reason at all.) Show me why Batman fails. Show me that he's tortured by this failure. I really won't accept any rationalization since there are thousands of ways for Babs to get up out of the wheelchair and do the Batusi, but at least I'll know Batman does care about her. Don't show me Batman essentially saying: "I can use this to my advantage. I'll lock Barbara in a Clock Tower like Rapunzel and have her do my bidding. This will give me more time to brood."
Tom Strong tries to do more for Greta than the fake Batman ever did for Babs Gordon. As a result, Tom Strong actually becomes more of a hero than those that served as the sources for his inspiration.
"Snow Queen" isn't a big story. It's not part of a huge storyarc. It does not involve one of Tom Strong's more super or better-known villains, but the story is as perfect as a snowflake.
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