Sunday, 22 September 2013

The Legend of Luther Strode by Justin Jordan and Tradd Moore Review

I’m sure there aren’t many people picking up this one who won’t have read the first book in the series - The Strange Talent of Luther Strode - but if you haven’t, go and read that before reading this. This second book, The Legend of Luther Strode, starts off at a bloody sprint and keeps going faster and faster until the utterly mental whirlwind of red destruction that is the finale - there is no room for getting to know the characters or finding out what Luther and Petra are all about, it’s all just non-stop, eyeball burning action from start to finish and new readers are bound to be lost.

Legend takes place five years after the first book and Luther has continued his crusade against crime while the crooks he’s antagonising turn to shadier people to help them stop him. Petra has been hunting Luther down as he attempts to find redemption from the deaths of everyone around him he believes he caused in the first book. Meanwhile the strange group of similarly talented people Luther is now a part of - the kind of talents which allows someone to possess superhuman strength, speed, and resilience - are unhappy with Luther’s activities and send not one, but two characters in an effort to stop him.

If the first book was compared most often to Kick Ass for being about a highschool kid who becomes a superhero (an incorrect comparison anyway as Luther actually gets superpowers rather than a green and yellow scuba outfit - though Kick Ass is a very violent comic though also less so than Luther Strode), the second book has more in common with Dragonball Z - albeit for adults, definitely not kids - for its epic superpowered fights and near-constant action. And while superhero comics that mainly feature just action is something I usually dislike, writer Justin Jordan and artist Tradd Moore manage to create such original action sequences with such remarkable characters, and with actual life or death stakes rather than the usual draw-no-one-dies results of Marvel/DC superhero fights, that it’s genuinely exciting to read and almost impossible to put the book down until the fight’s over.

Luther’s somehow able to catch bullets in his muscles and combats an opponent’s knife attacks by sinking the blades into his fists! In one sequence where it seems he’s down and out, he spits out a tooth like a bullet at his enemy! The action in this book is just ridiculously awesome. That’s really the beginning of what you can expect to see here - just look at the cover. That’s the whole book basically! And the action gets more and more interesting as the story goes on.

Luther’s new enemies are an interesting pair. The Falstaffian figure Binder, one of the group of immortal-like superpowered beings like the Librarian from the first book who at first appears to be an enemy but also seems to be trying to help the troubled Luther understand what he’s become; and the pitch black, pure evil Jack. This dude is an S&M mummy Jack the Ripper cosplayer turned up to 11. What he does in the mall at the end is insane and gives the seemingly invincible Luther a helluva run for his money in this book, showing his vulnerabilities and coming close to killing both him and Petra at different times in the story. Both are terrific characters who’re hugely entertaining to see in action and all the while I was wondering whether Luther would beat them or whether they’d live to see another day or become an ally (this thought pretty much exclusively applies to Binder - Jack was never going to be redeemed).

Tradd Moore’s art continues to impress, bringing Jordan’s hyper-violent script to lavish life with a mix of panel layouts ranging from the traditional 9-panel grid for talking scenes to wide panels for the action, and a mixture of dynamic shots for different fights. I love how he presents situations to the reader, knowing when to pull back and show the layout of a room or floor of a building before zooming straight in for a close up on the action. It involves the reader a lot more if they know what the scene layout is like, especially when the characters use it in the close-ups - so few artists know how to involve the reader in the action! It’s also refreshing to read an action comic that eschews splash pages that tend to get overused in superhero fights - the only splash page here is the one where Luther finally kisses Petra. The art and colours are really something. I’d compare it to another comic if I could think of any artist whose work comes close to Moore’s style but I can’t - the man is an original.

Jordan’s script is incredible. Fresh and energetic, imaginative and mysterious, he gives out enough story to sustain the book before gleefully plunging into the most insane action you’ve ever seen. Luther remains a fascinating character, brooding and troubled but not overly so and not without reason, given the events of the first book, whose quest for redemption is engaging and sympathetic. Petra is a great character too and I love that she plays a big part in the finale - she’s not superpowered like the other main players but it doesn’t stop her standing by her man, guns in hand, ready for the last stand. That last shot in the book is indicative of the story - it’s not about Luther, it’s about Luther and Petra.

Luther Strode is such an entertaining comic. If you enjoy dark stories with hyperviolence - and I mean it, if you’re at all squeamish or dislike overly bloody material, stay the hell away from this book! - then you need to get down with this one. It’s just great, it really is. Art, writing, characters, story, it’s all here and it’s all quality. Luther Strode is one of the best original comics to appear in the last couple of years and one of the jewels in Image’s crown. Read it, guys, you won’t regret it!

The Legend of Luther Strode

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