Sunday, 7 July 2013

The Strange Talent of Luther Strode by Justin Jordan and Tradd Moore review

Luther is a nerdy-looking, skinny high school kid with more than a few problems with violence in his life. His dad beat him and his mother up until he was sent to prison - but now his dad’s out - and a bully at school is kicking his ass up and down the lockers in front of the girl he likes. He sees an ad for something called the Hercules Method, sends off for it in desperation, and begins building up his body. Except the Hercules Method really does give you strength - super strength - and soon Luther, a once powerless young boy, now finds himself among the most physically powerful men in the world, and those problems he once had? He’s about to start solving them.

What a book this is! I started reading this cautiously, noting that I’d seen a lot of this before, and then new stuff started happening and I was glued to the book until the final page, totally enveloped in what I was reading. Justin Jordan does a fantastic job of pacing the story just right so we see Luther’s world from all angles before he acquires the powers. Then we see him go through the initiation period of becoming a superhero, coming up with a costume, patrolling the city, before the sinister element of Cain, the Librarian, and the murder cult is introduced to make it stand out from other similar stories. Jordan executes all of the plot points perfectly, striking the right balance in tone as Luther transitions from being a big fish in a little pond to a little fish in a big pond as he fixes the problems in his life before realising why he’s been given the powers and what’s expected of him. It goes from kinda fun to deadly serious in just the right amount of time.

Tradd Moore’s artwork compliments Jordan’s work perfectly, giving it this distinctive appearance that seemed kind of like Rob Guillory’s style in Chew - kind of, but different - and his character models have this great look to them that’s this great mix of cartoonish-ness and realism (on the subject of Chew, I have to say that the Librarian reminded me a lot of Mason Savoy - but maybe it’s just because I’m obsessed with Chew!). Moore draws the violence vividly lending his imagination to Jordan’s script to bring the gruesome fight scenes to gory life. I can honestly say that if any other artist had drawn this book, it wouldn’t have been as good. Moore elevates the material and makes it look so damn cool. That brief look we got at the murder cult? It’s an intriguing idea in the first place but Moore made it look so much more sinister and interesting with the way he drew it, jumping through pockets of time, getting those facial expressions just right - amazing! Also Felipe Sobreiro’s colours make the scenes pop, adding to the impressive presentation of the comic.

Luther Strode, if you can’t guess from the cover of an angry-looking dude with blood-soaked hands, is a hyper-violent comic. Luther’s super-strength means that when he punches someone, his fist goes through them. When he chops at someone’s head, he slices it in half. When he kicks someone in the back, his foot comes back with that person’s spine wrapped around it. Fair warning to anyone who’s squeamish or doesn’t like violent comics - Luther Strode is definitely not for you. I wouldn’t say it’s the defining element of the comic but it is a big part of it.

I’ve noticed a few people comparing this to Mark Millar’s Kick Ass and they’re wrong - Kick Ass was always just an ordinary kid who decided to dress like a superhero but he never had powers. Luther Strode actually has superpowers like super strength, super speed, some weird kind of x-ray that enables him to see beneath the surface of human flesh to the organs beneath. Dave from Kick Ass and Luther both start out as high school kids but only Luther becomes a real superhero.

If someone had told me before I read this that The Strange Talent of Luther Strode is about a kid who gets superpowers, I’d have rolled my eyes - how many times have we seen that before? And I can say having read it that it’s similar to a lot of stuff that’s gone before it but also manages to be its own thing. Luther is a character we’ve not seen before with a unique situation despite the misleading, reductive summary of his story that’s also kind of accurate. Luther Strode is an original superhero comic that’s well-written, well-drawn, and possesses that important element so few books have when you turn the final page - the desire to keep reading. I really want to see what happens next and I’m hungry to read more! I certainly will do that but for now I strongly recommend anyone who enjoys superhero comics that offer something different (and who don’t mind explicit violence) to check out the brilliant Luther Strode brought to you by The Super Talents of Justin Jordan and Tradd Moore. 

The Strange Talent of Luther Strode

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