Written by Mark Schultz, Steve Aylett, Brian K. Vaughan, Ed Brubaker
Artists: Pascal Ferry, Shawn McManus, Peter Snejberg, Duncan Fegredo
Collects Tom Strong 26-30 with the original covers and concept art.
Publisher: America’s Best Comics
Publication date: 2005
The first story is “The Day Tom Strong Renegotiated the Friendly Skies” and starts with Tom firing up the first motorized plane built by the Bumpfoli brothers. He’s agreed to fly it in festivities celebrating a hundred years of powered flight. Unfortunately, the plane crashes only seconds afer take off. In fact, planes all over the world are coming down and not getting up again.
Tom remembers his father’s notes about flight. Sinclair, Tom’s father, had been fascinated with powered flight but nobody had been successful with it until 1903 when Sinclair ingested massive amounts of goloko and rose to the skies in his high altitude balloon. When he came back, he claimed that he’d made some sort of pact which would make flight possible for humans. Tom and Dhalua have no choice but to try the same thing.
This was a very interesting concept and made Tom’s world clearly different from our own. I would have wanted to know more about the people introduced here. The story has a strong environment message.
“Jenny Panic & the Bible of Dreams” introduces a new antagonist who doesn’t even know she has powers. The Millennium City police finds a skeleton stuffed with money. Apparently, he was a rich guy who insulted a waitress. When the rich guy is walking home, he’s confronted by a see-through woman who transports him into a place where there’s nothing else than dollar bills. Eventually, he dies.
A man with a flower bud for a face, asks to see Tom and his wife Dhalua. Mr. Hatfill tells that he’s from a dream dimension which was created by a woman who doesn’t even know she’s done it. She’s a gateway to that dream dimension. Tom agrees to find the mystery woman.
This is another surreal story with dream like logic. The woman is angry about how people treat her and is defending herself with her unconscious power. However, she’s quite powerful and needs to be stopped.
“A Fire in His Belly” focuses on Pneuman. The story starts when Pneuman is considering killing Tom. Pneuman claims to access his memories randomly, remembering his life first with the Strongs and then with Tom’s family. Sinclair seems to have treated Pneuman like a robot. When Susan talks to Pneuman in a friendly manner, Sinclair forbids it. Then Sinclair tells Susan that he intends to raise Tom in the high-gravity nursery and that Pneuman will have to do most of Tom’s raising because the gravity will be too high for the parents to enter the nursery. Susan has no choice but to trust to Pneuman. On the day Susan dies, she makes Pneuman promise her something which will drive the poor creature to contemplate killing.
Pneuman also remembers a fight with the science villain the Eye-Opener who can bring characters from paintings into life. This was an interesting concept but probably not worth more stories unless Tom takes to heart the Eye-Opener’s claim that all painted characters are really alive and trapped inside paintings, and decides to do something about it.
Pneuman is often just a side character in Tom’s stories. This is a sad story about the conflict in Pneuman’s life. However, he isn’t particularly original or interesting character. He seems to be fully alive and have a conscience but he’s not as complex as, for example, Data. Here, he wrestles with his conscience but doesn’t really talk about it with his friends.
The last two issues are a two part story “The Terrible True Life of Tom Strong part 1 and 2”. Tom, Tesla, and Solomon are chasing Eldon Morovia who’s another genius science villain. Morovia is a treasure hunter looking for powerful artifacts from ancient civilizations. This time, he in the Andes. Tom and Tesla attack Morovia’s underlings while Solomon stays on the flying saucer to research the secret history logs.
Tom and Tesla find a tomb opening and Solomon identifies it as a Mayan tomb of the Shaman King Kukulkan. Of course, the Andes are Incan territory so the tomb shouldn’t be there.
Near the end of the first issue, it’s reveled that Tom Strong is just a figment of imagination and the real Tom is Tom Samson, a bitter and depressed construction worker. He’s married to a woman he doesn’t even like and stuck in a dead end job with no friends.
Another one I have mixed feelings about. On the one hand, most of the first issue had an excellent Indiana Jones like feeling going on when Tom and Tesla are crawling though the dusty corridors and avoiding traps, and I adore that. But I really, really don’t like the stories where the hero/ine is just an imaginary construct thing. At all. The story gives a more real life origin story for Tom and I guess that’s great for people who prefer that.
Overall, I really liked only the first story. These are stand-alone stories without much continuity so they can be easily skipped unless you really like Tom Strong.