Confession time for me: this is the first issue of "Tom Strong" I have ever read. For whatever reason, when Alan Moore's "America's Best Comics" line was in its heyday, I wasn't reading it. Pretty sure it was a budgeting issue, one where I dared not try to fit any other comics into my budget. This week, however, I answered the call.
Boy, oh boy, am I glad I did.
Granted, I don't know all of the backstories for all of the characters here, but Peter Hogan delivers a story structured enough to introduce Tom Strong and his supporting cast to any reader without filling the reader's head with way too much information. Hogan keeps it simple and then spins it on its head, taking everything we see in the first half of the book and throwing it out the window, setting up a journey of discovery for us and Tom Strong, who is individually unaffected by the change and retains memories of the world before the time wipe.
It's a pretty standard story, villain uses time travel to change the world, except this villain is Strong's son, and the world he recreates is one ruled by Nazis. Not Illinois Nazis, mind you, but the authentic, goose-stepping, genocidal, world-conquering Nazis. Strong is at a loss for why this happened and how he avoided being affected by it, which makes for a compelling read throughout this first issue and has me eagerly anticipating the next.
Sprouse's art is top notch, and with Karl Story in tow for the inks, top notchery continues on. I needn't explain why I think Sprouse's art is topnotch to readers familiar with his work, but for those with limited exposure to Sprouse's work, it's this simple: Sprouse draws deceptively simple, yet highly detailed characters and settings. The characters may not be detailed down to crow's feet around their eyes, or smile lines on their faces, but they stand and move with grace and elegance that details who they are. Sprouse doesn't draw every muscle bulging on the characters' arms, but he infers strength and power by drawing the shape of the arms. Sprouse delivers detail to his characters by varying their builds and postures. It's a less is more approach, and it works wonderfully. Especially so since this comic is a healthy dose of pulp adventure and Silver Age wonder. Carrie Strachan washes the art in strong colors that are bold, but refined. Things are not garishly colored just to be loud, nor is the color range especially muted. The colors, like the art, fit the story and propel it upward.
I've already admitted my past indiscretions with this character, and here I've also sung some praise for this book. If you're like me, and you've somehow avoided Tom Strong and his fascinating world, you really need to correct that mistake for yourself. This is the perfect opportunity. Those of you who have been reading the adventures of Tom Strong all along can now say, "I told you so."
This is a strong issue to kick a story off with, and I'm hoping the next issue is just as enjoyable. If the rest of this series plays out as this issue has, I'm going to have to hunt down some of Strong's previous adventures for some wonderful summertime reading - fire up the box fan, the cool beverage, and the spot on the floor, this book is a great sentimental throwback with modern sensibilities.