ADVANCE REVIEW: The Strange Talent of Luther Strode #1

A comic review article by: Danny Djeljosevic
ADVANCE REVIEW! The Strange Talent of Luther Strode #1 will come out on October 5, 2011.

The Strange Talent of Luther Strode #1 feels like someone finally made a version of Kick-Ass for actual nerds. Granted, James Gunn's Super is the best version of Kick-Ass -- followed by Matthew Vaughn's amazingly fun, over-the-top film adaptation and then, in last place, the comic itself -- but the new miniseries by Justin Jordan (of the Lovecraftian war Zuda webcomic Rumors of War) and Tradd Moore feels like a book that appeals more to the modern comics reading young person than the surprisingly broad Millar-Romita Jr. joint.

You see, The Strange Talent of Luther Strode follows Luther, a wiry, nerdy high schooler who manages to get superpowers from a Charles Atlas-like book called The Hercules Method, like someone refracted Kick-Ass through a Flex Mentallo prism. Soon enough, he can punch guys real good and has the reflexes of -- well, do you remember in Spider-Man when Toby Maguire catches Kirsten Dunst's lunch when she slips in the cafeteria? Like that.

In fact, there are a few Spider-Man signifiers going on in this book. There's a scene where Luther checks out his new muscles in the mirror, a redhead (this time, an attractive one) who totally wants to fuck him and a jock who wants to fuck him up. It's a lot like how Vaughn's Kick-Ass the movie resembled Spider-Man, but it also speaks to the well each of these stories are going to. Nerdy guy gains superpowers, starts fighting back, girls start to like him.

What sets The Strange Talent of Luther Strode apart from other superpowered high school comics is that it's fucking insane. Jordan and Moore aren't afraid to go incredibly violent and over-the-top -- even moreso than the other similar works I've been comparing the thing to this whole time. The opening scene shows Luther at some undetermined point in the future, having physically ripped apart a whole bunch of dudes in exciting and creative ways. There are villains who can spit out their teeth as bullet-like projectiles (!). Please don't ask me to count the instances of spraying blood (there are at least several).

Tradd Moore's art is what really makes the book Under the wrong hands -- and not just a bad artist, I mean an artist with the wrong tone in mind -- the book could have been rendered a depressing mess, but Moore's art is a perfect fit for the ridiculous violence and overt-the-top cartoonishness that Jordan's script demands. There's a bit of Tony Moore (no relation, I assume) in there, but if the ex-Walking Dead mainlined some manga into those sweet Kentucky veins. Look at this dodgeball scene:

This dude's going to be one to watch.

Justin Jordan's script is solid, but it's going to take a few issues to see how his storytelling fares. Unlike, say, a Brian Bendis Spider-Man comic, Jordan gets to the fucking point and gets the guy's powers developing early in the first issue, delivers the requisite high school drama (Bullies! Girls! Dodgeball! Best friend!) and even throws in a couple of scenes with the story's apparent supervillain. He knows he doesn't have time to waste. And while I sort of glossed over the high school element, he even handles that well, bringing some much-needed humor to scenes that we've seen a million times before.

Just as importantly, I don't feel pandered to. Rather than pay lip service to geek chic like Millar did ("Hey, what's the deal with that second FF movie?"), Jordan and Moore throw in really concrete references -- issues of We3, 100 Bullets, Akira and even Dragon Ball Z posters -- that go beyond someone in a Star Wars T-shirt (even though there's that, too). Those are all things I like, but they exist as window dressing that shows keen readers just who this guy is without foregrounding it through forced dialogue.

The Strange Talent of Luther Strode #1 is a promising first issue that feels like an accurate taste of what the rest of the series will probably be. If Image Comics' 2011 track record holds up, the book should prove a pretty big hit, which is an exciting prospect for Justin Jordan and Tradd Moore who, prior to this book, probably weren't on many people's radars.

Danny Djeljosevic is a comic book creator, award-winning filmmaker (assuming you have absolutely no follow-up questions), film/music critic for Spectrum Culture and Co-Managing Editor of Comics Bulletin. Follow him on Twitter at @djeljosevic or find him somewhere in San Diego, often wearing a hat. Read his newest comic, "Sgt. Death and his Metachromatic Men," over at Champion City Comics.

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