Written by Alan Moore

Artists: Chris Sprouse, Alan Gordon, and additional art by Arthur Adams, Gary Frank, Dave Gibbons and Jerry Ordway

Collects Tom Strong 1-7 with the original covers and concept art.

Publisher: America’s Best Comics
Publication date: 2000

Tom Strong is a nod to classic super hero stories and pulp fiction. He’s supposed to be a “science hero” but, at least at first, he solves most problems with his fists. He has a great supporting cast, though. His wife Dhalua and daughter Tesla are his side kicks along with Pneuman, who is a robot built by Tom’s scientist father, and King Solomon who is an intelligent gorilla. The family structure brings to my mind the Fantastic Four, especially with the bantering Pneuman and Solomon, however, the rest of the team don’t have the same dynamics.

The first three stories are stand-alones that introduce the characters and the world, but a more continuous storyline starts at the end of issue four.

The first issue is our hero’s origin story. It’s a story within a story: the POV character is Timmy Turbo (who is drawn to look like he’s drawn character). Timmy has just joined the Strongmen of America and in his introductory pack is a comic which tells Tom Strong’s origin story: in fact the very comic that the reader is reading. I’m a sucker for this structure so I liked it a lot.

Tom’s father brings his family to a supposedly uninhabited island and builds a pressure chamber for his infant son, who is born on the island. However, the parents die and the locals raise Tom. He marries Dhalua who is a local girl and they have a daughter Tesla whose skin color is as dark as her mother’s. Tom and his family become the champions of Millenium City.

Tom’s super strong and invulnerable because of his stay in the chamber, and he and his family are all very long lived because of the goloka root that they eat. Tom is almost a hundred years old when the second issue starts but looks about 40 or 50.

The second issue is “the Return of the Modular Man”. Right at the start we see Tom, Tesla, and Solomon destroying the modules that when combined can produce the Modular Man. 13 years later, a few collage kids have found instruction from the internet to build the modules. Tom is away in Venus, so Tesla answers the police’s call for help when the modules begin to swallow up buildings. We also see Dhalua rescuing a plane in danger, so right at the start we see Tom’s family in action. However, Tom himself has to solve the Modular Man’s dilemma.

The third issue has Aztecs from an alternate dimension trying to conquer Millenium City! Tom enters their golden ziggurat to investigate. I really liked the techno-Aztecs as villains. The crew were clones and their god Quetzalcoatl-9 is a computer program that has to serve the humans and not the other way around.

All of these stories are pretty simple and the only surprising thing about them is Tesla’s and Dhalua’s strong roles considering the sexist pulp originals.

The fourth story starts as simple: Nazi throw-backs (all young, slim women who, for some reason, seem to hate trousers) attack Tom Strong’s home. Ingrid Weiss, a Nazi-engineered superhuman (strength, invulnerability, doesn’t age), is attacking the Strong family, and Tom relives his first encounter with her in the second World War. Quite frankly, I found this one a bit distasteful. It seemed to be nothing more than an excuse to draw huge-breasted women in skintight leather and the “dialogue” about each others’ great bodies was cringe worthy. (Yeah, showing the pulpy background but still…) However, at the end Tom is put into a time machine and sent millions of years back in time when Earth had just one super continent, the Pangaea.

In the next issue Tom relives his earlier visit to the past into this same continent. He and his wife were scientists there, gathering samples from the early Earth. They also encountered a shape changing, barely intelligent life form that didn’t like their presence. Tom and Dhalua had been sent with Professor Parallax’s time machine that was programmed to yank them back so they escaped that time. Now, the creature is massive and far more intelligent.

When Tom returns to his time, he has to deal with two old enemies who have teamed up. In issue six he see Tom’s first encounter with his arch-nemesis Saveen. Tom even has to protect a perky woman journalist!

In the next issue, Tom’s fight with his enemies continue while Dhalua and Tesla are looking for him. We also get a glimpse into a possible future in 2050.

I really liked the three last issues and I felt that the comic really got going there. All of the remembered stories, and glimpse into a future, are drawn by a different artist which creates a somewhat different mood to them. Dhalua also showed her real character in the last issue.

Like I said, I liked the supporting cast a lot. Tesla is the one we see most and she’s a pretty standard side kick: loyal, intelligent, brave. She doesn’t cringe from anything which is awesome in a female character. I actually didn’t like Dhalua as much because she’s jealous of Tom and to me that means insecure. She’s also pretty weirdly possessive of Tesla; she doesn’t mind it when Tesla’s in danger but she doesn’t allow Tesla to date. Huh? So, it’s okay for her to be injured or killed but sex is out… (eye rolling) King Solomon and Pheuman are a hilarious bickering pair.

In the last story Tom walks around in a memorabilia room where there are statues of his enemies. (It’s built by one of his enemies, which is a nice little twist.) Some of the names of the enemies remind me of DC and Marvel villains so even though I don’t really know what has happened, I can sort of deduce it, and I love that.

So, this is a nice, nostalgic romp for those of us who love comics but it’s not really high literature so anyone expecting something along the lines of Watchmen or V for Vendetta are bound to be disappointed.

Sprouce’s art work is pretty clean and it feels retro to me. No manga stylings,

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