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Tom Strong's Terrific Tales #9

Posted: Tuesday, February 10, 2004
By: Jason Cornwell



Writers: Alan Moore and Steve Moore
Pencils: Michael Kaluta, Art Adams and Alan Weiss
Inks: Michael Kaluta, Kevin Nolan and Steve Leialoha

Publisher: America's Best Comics

The Plot:
The opening story offers up a look at the delightfully hilarious missteps that were taken by Millennium City as they adjust to the fantastic technology that Tom Strong brought into their lives. The second story delivers a Jonni Future story in which she encounters a robotic entity that has uncovered the idea that she's from the past, and has access to a means of traveling into the past. The final story looks in on a young Tom Strong as he discovers his mother's diary.

The Good:
Alan Moore is not a writer that I really consider to be all that funny, but I have to say the opening story of this issue stands up as one of the funniest things I'm read all year. Now I realize that we're only a month and a bit into the new year, but I fully expect this to be the top contender for the rest of the year, or at least until the arrival of the second Giffen/DeMatteis Justice League miniseries. Basically Alan Moore offers up a hilarious look at a city that has gotten its hands on comic book technological advancements, and the various blunders that have resulted from the city's misguided efforts to make itself into the city of the future. I mean one has to love the description that is offered up by a survivor of the Great Blimp Jam of 1919, or the account of what happened to the young couple who chartered a flight over the city on Ray Night. A wonderfully imaginative look at comic book science run amok, as Alan Moore offers up several laugh aloud moments as Millennium City is shown racing into the future with its new toys, and completely clueless as to how to use them safely. The second story isn't nearly as much fun, but it's an exciting enough tale as Jonni Future is confronted by a robotic entity who has discovered she possesses a means to journey into the past, and this in turn results in something I'd long been hoping to see on these Jonni Future tales. Yes this story ends with a cliffhanger, a format that I wish this book had adopted right from the start.

I remember Michael Kaluta's covers on the previous Aquaman series, and he turns in some truly wonderful work on the opening chapter of this issue, as his art is largely responsible for realizing the comedic potential of the more fantastic elements, such as the Millennium Magna-Boot Marathon, or the fantastically dangerous nature of a game of Buzzard. We then move on to Arthur Adam's work on Jonni Future's adventures, and in addition to the wonderful level of detail that he puts on the page, he also does some wonderful work detailing the more fantastic elements of the issue, such as Jonni's giant fish ship, or the transformer-like quality of the robot attacker. The final page shot of the time-bridge is also nicely handled, as the visual makes for an exciting visual to carry us into the next adventure. As for the final chapter, Alan Weiss is a solid enough artist, but he is stuck detailing some of the more visually dull adventures of the book, as this time out the only real moment of visual excitement he could've rendered is offered up completely off panel, as the storm/ship-wreck is only hinted at in a single panel.

The Bad:
As is normally the case on this book the final chapter is the weakest one of the three. Nine issues into this series and I have to say I'm firmly convinced that this concept is a dry well and that the book would be all that better if its section was replaced by material that could introduce new ideas to Tom Strong's world, rather than this pointless examination of the character's formative years on the island. Now this chapter plays off the relationship that was shown to exist in the recent issues of Tom Strong, as Tom's mother was more than ready to run off with Tomas, the pilot of the boat that takes them to AttabarTeru. However since we already know this relationship never forms the emotional impact is cut off at the knees before the story can even arrival at the more interesting elements of the relationship, as frankly a love triangle is a dramatic dead-end if all the parties aren't made aware that one exists. In the end it's difficult to work up much enthusiasm about the adventures of young Tom Strong, as his modern day adventures quickly quash any sense of excitement that something might happen to him, as we know he exists in the present day in the pink of health, and bearing no scars from any emotional traumas. If anything get him off the island, as watching his efforts to establish himself as Millennium City's champion would be infinitely more engaging than these dreadfully dull island adventures.

Oh The Humanity:
I strongly recommend this issue based almost entirely on the opening chapter that Alan Moore offers up as Kurt Busiek should be a little nervous as Alan Moore becomes the only other writer to perfectly tap into the concept of fantastic comic book concepts running headlong into the mundane aspects of the real world. Now I realize that Alan Moore plays it for laughs, but frankly I can actually see these moments actually playing out if comic book science suddenly materialized in the real world, with the idea of Ray Night being one of the more engaging ideas I've come across in a very long time. In fact this eight page story is full of more clever ideas than we get in many books over the course of an entire year. The second story involving Jonni Future is also quite enjoyable, as we get a story that is allowed to expand beyond its restrictive eight page format, by ending with a pretty exciting cliffhanger. Then a near perfect reading experience is brought back down to earth with yet another average young Tom Strong tale.



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