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Credits & Solicit Info:
The Strange Talent of Luther Strode #1 (of 6) (MR)
story JUSTIN JORDAN
art & cover TRADD MOORE
On Sale:October 05, 2011
Luther Strode is just your average nerd until he sends away for a bodybuilding course from an old comic book, one that works a whole lot better than he ever imagined. His newfound strength and strange talents make school a lot easier, but they've also caused some very, very bad people to take a very, very keen interest in him. Things will never be the same for Luther Strode... if he survives.
Do you remember Charles Atlas?
You might if you read comics or boys magazines at any time from the 1940's to the 1980's. He used to run an ad for the mail order guide to his "Dynamic Tension" technique of bodybuilding. The ads famously contained a six-panel cartoon of a skinny kid getting sand kicked in his by some musclehead at the beach. Using the Atlas technique, said scrawny beanpole was able to bulk up, punch out his tormentor and get the girl, showing himself to be the alpha male. Thus, all ended well. Considering how intrinsic the series of ads become to comic book history, it makes sense that so many comics have riffed on them, most notably Grant Morrison's run on Doom Patrol, which introduced the character of Flex Mentallo, which was actually supposed to be the Charles Atlas customer from that beach ad, raised from his 2-D existence.
Now, we have The Strange Talent of Luther Strode. The new Image comic is an extended new iteration of the Charles Atlas ad, but taken in a gross, superviolent new direction. The first three pages detail a hulking behemoth of a man ejecting bullets from his chest muscles while surveying the bloody damage he's done to a room full of gangsters. We learn that he destroys and dismemebers them in comically gruesome ways. The story then flashes back to when the title character receives an Atlas-like exercise routine in the mail. Before too long, he has enhanced strength, speed, and confidence. Much like the skinny wussbag on the beach, Luther is routinely bullied at school and just can't work up the nerve to talk to Petra, the girl of his dreams. All that changes after one night with his new exercise routine.
What's interesting about Luther Strode #1 is that although it ends with Luther still discovering his new abilities, it starts with a staggeringly vivid display of them. We see where the slippery slope ends up. Tradd Moore gets to cut loose in rendering all the brutality Luther inflicts upon his victims in that opening sequence with great detail and enthusiasm. The art overall is cartoony but vibrant, and it tells the story effectively. The characters are wonderfully expressive and their dialogue, by Justin Jordan, has a great rhythm which feels very natural. The excessive violence is so extreme that it comes to be very funny, in the vein of the Peter Jackson film Dead Alive.
Despite the gore of the opening pages, there is something of a story here. Something we see in comics a lot is how the body can be enhanced in order to be turned into a weapon, whether it's super-serums or power armor or years of intense martial arts study. The body is a complex system that can be molded and shaped for a variety of purposes. Though this is a recurring theme in comics, it's usually handled pretty casually. It looks like Luther Strode is going to be introducing a mysterious villain to add a lot of plot to the story, but hopefully the story sticks mostly to the themes of body treatment and changes. There's a real possibility that Luther Strode ends up devolving into a showcase of blood and guts and nothing more, since it looks like there's going to be a whole lot of fighting coming up. For now, though, the story is as funny and likable as it is bloody, and that makes it worth a look.
Review by: Royal Nonesuch