When you suffer the self-imposed affliction known as “Intense Media Saturation”, contempt breeds an inborn resistance to recognizable tropes or elements. You find yourself reacting to new plot ideas as simply the bi-product of a slight tweak to an already existing production. Personally, when it comes to the spinal cord of a story, whether it is an original idea or not, I break it up like this: if the work starts on its own unique bent and stays with it, it leaves me with a new life birthed from unfamiliarity; but if the work focuses on the execution of familiar ideas, like what I consider to be a new poster child on execution 2011’s The Strange Talent of Luther Strode, I get to enjoy seeing my familiarities used against me.
The Strange Talent of Luther Strode was created by a three man team consisting of writer Justin Jordan, artist Tradd Moore, and colorist Felipe Sobreiro. Justin Jordan is noted for various anthology works and for writing a few issues of Hack/Slash, yet Strange Talent is his first original series. Tradd Moore seems to be (at the time of this review) a rather recent university graduate, so Strange Talent seems to be his first comic gig. Breaking that “first time getting to put out my own comic” stride we had going with the previous two is Felipe Sobreiro, who has his hands working all over the place, most recognizable in issues of Heavy Metal magazine.
Young high school scholar Luther Strode has a problem much greater than what usually befalls the average teenager. We find him pushing seven rounds of ammo out of his torso after single handedly brutalizing six goons in one of the most detail oriented two-page spreads that I have seen in quite some time. Picture this; Luther just did what is effectively the equivalent of what the two main martial arts characters from the Fist of The North Star series, Hokuto Shinken and Nanto Seiken, would look like in combination. Mix Hokuto Shinken’s direct explosive power mixed with Nanto Seiken’s sharp pinpoint movement, and you dear reader have something one level removed from beautiful. But wait, those guessing that this is simply an early eye catch are right on the money; some flashbacking is in order.
A few weeks prior, a much leaner Luther unwraps a package with his close (and only) friend Pete, acquiring the long awaited answer to Luther’s school problems, The Hercules Method. See, Luther with his wavy blonde hair, thick rimmed glasses, and association with Pete are perfect blank-checks for Paul Jacobson’s bullying. But after Luther’s mother convinces him that missing two/thirds of a month of school if far too much of a problem compared to a school bully, he needs to find a way out. That comes in the form of The Hercules Method, to which after a few days with this pamphlet sized text, he slowly but noticeably develops much keener senses and gains perhaps half his current weight in muscle. Luther’s high school drama regarding not only this bullying mess but an unrequited love in the form of Petra Dobrev will have to take a back seat when gaining the ability to see people’s muscle structures and having odd violent impulses starts tagging along with those hormones. But finding out that a charismatic but blood thirsty man, known as The Librarian, is hunting you down might also dampen Luther’s bright cheery future.
I mentioned earlier that Luther Strode’s largest merit comes in the form of execution, so certain examples are in order. Take for instance Luther’s home life; he seems to live in an apartment with just his mother, a woman who you see cautiously open the door for her own son through a chained door with a caste covered hand. You learn later that Luther’s father was physically abusive to the two of them, and while that is flatly stated, the subtle interaction that Luther and his mother have towards each other seems more real than previous main characters from broken homes. Next is The Librarian himself, whose need to collect knowledge in regards to his subject Luther hit right where it should. When The Librarian eludes that he knows everything about Luther’s life, presenting his father right in front of him is a nice example, but being able to address his friend Pete by name without ever meeting him is clear subtle proof that writer Justin Jordan’s knows what he is doing when it comes to making amazing villains.
As a rule that many of you reading might adhere to like me, stories set in high schools equate to red flags of the mind. In the same way that College Humor will never represent my university life, comics set in seemingly American schools will never represent my high school experience. Now you could say that as a critic whose site is half Japanese entertainment that I would be used to the high school setting. To which I would respond, that the reason much of Manga’s and Anime’s focus on high school stems from Japan’s personal zeitgeist when it comes to their happy high school experiences (if you look deeper this actually leans more towards middle or elementary school). Bottom line, while I could offer Luther Strode context examples proving my point, the sole fact that the setting never hindered the feel and story is a testament to this comic’s brilliance.
Pros: Normally I would have dedicated an entire paragraph detailing Tradd Moore’s fantastic line work and character designs working with Felipe Sobreiro’s spot on color choice, but that would make this far too long. Simply put, I will start following Tradd Moore’s progression as an artist just as I do with other a quality artists like Gurihiro and Jacen Burrows. Justin Jordan gets both villains and subtlety. Did I mentioned how psyched I am about this thing?
Cons: You will just have to get used to the fact that Luther’s size doubles within a matter of pages. Not to spoil anything, but The Librarian might have been built up just to be dropped down when something bigger and badder appeared. The high school centered story is going to be a barrier to entry with those readers not willing to believe that the setting is not a drawback.
The Strange Talent of Luther Strode was put out by Image Comics and if everything goes well and this first trade sells well, more will be gracing my hands. Wow, have not written a long review like this is quite some time. If you have gotten to the bottom of this review and still have not made this fantastic comic your next Amazon purchase, then I do not know what I can do for you my dear reader.