Writer: Peter Hogan
Artists: Chris Sprouse (p), Karl Story and John Dell (i)
Publisher: America's Best Comics
When workers digging a new subway tunnel accidentally free a woman who looks like a walking ice sculpture, we see Tom Strong is stunned to discover this woman is Greta, the first love of his life who he had given up for dead when his old enemy Dr. Permafrost kidnapped her, and seemingly froze her solid. However, while Greta tries to adjust to her return to a world that has move on without her, we see she receives an offer of help from an unexpected source.
It would appear that Alan Moore has handed to writing reigns over to Peter Hogan, and consequentially this book is currently sitting on the bubble as I'm always looking for an excuse to cut a book out of my monthly pile. However, Peter Hogan is making it somewhat difficult to break away from this book as if nothing else he looks to be taking active steps to make Tom Strong into more than the square-jawed adventurer that Alan Moore used in his issues. This issue we learn the fate of Tom Strong's first girlfriend who Tom believed was killed by Dr. Permafrost, but this issue marks the character's return from a cryogenic sleep. This in turn adds a little more depth to the character of Tom Strong as we see there have missions in the past where he's failed, and I personally feel this makes him a stronger character. I mean Spider-Man's failure to save Gwen Stacy and Batman's failure to save Jason Todd are defining moments in both those character's past, and even today writers are drawing upon these failures to reinforce the character's heroic status with the readers. Of course this issue's look at Tom's past doesn't carry the same impact as we barely know Greta, but the scene where Tom is explaining to Greta why they can't pick up their relationship where it left off is a very powerful scene. I just hope Peter Hogan doesn't take the character down the predictable path, by making her into a spurned lover/super-villain.
As for the art, one of the main reasons I stuck with this title when Alan Moore seemingly left is that Chris Sprouse looks to be staying on board, as I don't think my interest in this title could've held up against a complete shift of the creative team. The art does a wonderful job of capturing the simpler feel of these stories, while at the same time there's a level of detail that leaves one greatly impressed. The art is also quite solid when it comes to conveying the emotions of its characters, as the scene where Tom reacts to Greta's return is well done, as is the pain when Greta learns that the love of her life has moved on with his life. Now I do have to openly wonder why Greta looks like a carbon copy of Firestorm's villain Killer Frost, as for a moment I thought we we're getting our first crossover, but than again the idea of a ghostly woman in a flowing gown is hardly a visual element that any artist can claim to have come up with.
I'm a sucker for the stories that play with the idea of a character being trapped outside time to return to a world where everyone they cared for has moved on, and everything they understood to be a constant in their world has been fundamentally altered. In fact the most enjoyable section of this issue was the scene where Tom has to tell Greta that in the time she's been gone he's married, and had a child. There's also some nice awkward tension between Greta and Tom's wife Dhalua as the two women attempt to be cordial with each other, but it's clear that the promise of friendship is a hollow one. I also enjoyed the video tape that the late Dr. Permafrost leaves Tom as it's always nice to see a villain basking in the glory of their one victory over the hero. As for the surprise twist in the final pages I do hope that when Peter Hogan follows up on this he doesn't go for the predictable path of turning Greta into a raging super-villain. However, that last page makes it look like this path is a pretty much already laid out for the character.
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