Before characters like Superman erupted onto the scene, heroes used to be real people. Characters like Flash Gordon or Doc Savage might have had extraordinary backgrounds that helped turn them into the kind of men who could save the world, but they were fundamentally human. It is this kind of character (and we’re particularly reminded of Doc Savage) that Alan Moore has based Tom Strong on.
Strong was raised on an island by his Victorian scientist parents and its native inhabitants. Kept in a container with a gravitational force five times that of Earth until he is 11, Strong emerges as a superhuman teenager who eventually travels back to America, lives for over a century and fights crime. Oh, and did we mention his super-intelligence, triggered by a diet of local intellect-enhancing jungle herbs?
The stories collected here span Strong’s very long life. The main set of stories are rooted in the 1990s, but a number of devices are used to fill in Strong’s history. The most common of these is the comic-within-a-comic, an Alan Moore favourite previously seen in Watchmen. These are presented in a need to know fashion: as more characters and adversaries arrive on the scene, we’re slipped into their back-stories to provide a bit of historical context. Different artists are responsible for these extra stories, giving each one a separate life of its own.
Plot-wise, this has a strange mix of influences, bringing modern technology like the Internet into a setting that maintains the old fashioned feeling of a pre-superheroic age. It’s a clever merging and, as with all Moore’s work, the alternative universe Strong inhabits has been beautifully thought out.
What annoyed us were Strong’s sidekicks. We have no objection to the inclusion of his wife and daughter in his crime fighting team, but the intelligent talking gorilla and Victorian robot, both of whom bicker relentlessly with each other, started to get on our nerves after a while. If we had lived with these two for over a century, we probably would have murdered them by now.
If you’re looking for some inoffensive high adventure that’s a bit more Indiana Jones than Clark Kent, you’ll probably enjoy this. Those used to Alan Moore in a more serious mood may find this a tad disappointing, largely because of that damn robot.
|Read more Tom Strong reviews:
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|Other titles by Alan Moore:
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