You have to appreciate the creative honesty of a team that tells you what they’re going to do and then just does it. In an introductory essay by writer Justin Jordan, we learn the stated goal of blending the horror and superhero genres together, and then watch as the team seamlessly does just that.
I enjoyed the mental correlation I was making with the Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely book Flex Mentallo; the fascination with the Charles Atlas archetype, the seminal comics which contained mail away ads, and the latent fantasy magic that seems to exist within them.
Tradd Moore’s art is a confectionary treat. I’m always fond of making comparisons in an elevator pitch style, so why stop now? This style struck me as a blend of the lean compact detail lurking within Kevin O’Neill’s lines and the exuberant emotional content of someone like Joe Quinones. Drenching it all in the vibrant colors of Felipe Sobreiro is just icing on the cake.
For a book largely concerned with the topic, I was smiling at all of the Easter Eggs you could find visually, revealing the culture of violence that the story is steeped in, one that reflects the darker elements of our own culture. Voorhees, Scarface, 100 Bullets. It’s all there informing the background.
There’s a hip visceral edge to this story as it operates simultaneously with a perfect balance of unpredictable violence, slick humor, and embedded sexuality.
It’s rare you see a book that brings with it full narrative and visual efficiency. There are no shortcuts or tricks, but Luther Strode doesn’t insult your intelligence. It’s devoid of exposition, expecting you to be smart enough to pick up the visual transitions and all of the verbal entendre without feeling the need to pause and explain it away.
After reading a couple books recently which were absolute clunkers in the dialogue department, this was simply effortless. It’s refreshing to hear dialogue that flows so naturally, it never stumbles or pushes you out of the experience. It’s just honey to your ears.
So many stories fall apart with their use of skimpy stock supporting characters. Not the case here; from Luther’s mom, to his girlfriend, to his best friend, it’s never clichéd or annoying.
Perhaps the best of that grouping is the arch-nemesis with panache – The Librarian.
The great thing about being self-aware with the genre tropes you’re working with, is that it allows you to subvert audience expectations, and that process creates a degree of mental interactivity with the audience.
I deeply appreciate the unflinching display of the true cost of this lifestyle. Infusing superhero work with “realism” is an over-used accolade for a post-modern superhero comic, but here it rings true. If you’ve ever asked yourself the question of what would really happen to a kid with powers, Luther Strode answers it for you with uncommon accuracy.
The book ends with the ultimate heroic act, and it’s a surprising denouement. On top of that, it’s very much a tight closed loop, a self-contained story, yet it ends with the possibility of more, a nod to all good horror.
It puts the empty hustle of the Mark Millar milieu to shame. If, like me, you think stuff like Kick-Ass is silly and over-rated, you’ll like this instead. If you liked that book, hey, you’ll like this more. Full stop.