When I first started writing for Multiversity back in 2011, I kept hearing the title of an Image mini in all the chatter back and forth: “The Strange Talent of Luther Strode.” However, it wasn’t until almost a year later, when writer Justin Jordan was going to be a guest on The Hour Cosmic, that I got off my duff and picked up the now-collected series and sat down to familiarize myself with the series, pre-podcast.
And I understood what all my boos at Multiversity were getting all riled up about.
Written by Justin Jordan
Illustrated by Tradd Moore
Luther Strode is just your average geek – until he sends for an exercise course from the back of an old comic book. What he gets is the instruction manual from a murder cult as old as mankind that does everything that it promised – and more!
This mini (since expanded upon with the almost-concluded sequel, “The Legend of Luther Strode”) tells a simple story: kid sends away for the old Charles Atlas bodybuilding kit we all saw in the back of our Silver and Bronze Age comics – even when seeing the ads in the 80s and early 90s, they already seemed incredibly anachronistic and harkened back to a time before my birth, of black and white televisions, traveling salesmen and sea monkeys. However, instead of just getting ripped, his life winds up changing in unexpected ways. That is, unless you think being drawn into centuries old conflicts and watching people all around you die is ordinary.
The first thing to strike me about the book is how it effectively it messes with common tropes, and plays the reader for the sucker each time. You know those ads in the back of comics are bullshit, don’t you? You know that the jock is going to get his comeuppance, but will ultimately be ok, right? You know that not too many people in the book are going to die, right?
Uh, well, yeah. No.
Jordan is an economical writer who knows just what he is doing around a scene, and crafts each scene with a purpose that, when looking back on it, seems abundantly clear. That is something I was taught in a creative writing class in college – when looking back at any scene in a book/movie/tv show, the scene’s reason for existing should be really obvious. The trick is making the scene, while reading it, appear surprising and suspenseful. Jordan does that in spades; each scene unfolds in a satisfying, and far from conventional way, and allows the reader to go on a journey of discovery.
But what really struck me, on initial read, was Tradd Moore’s art. Moore draws some super violent scenes, but never loses his sense of whimsy and fun. Put differently, Moore knows he’s drawing a comic, and approaches it like that. Everything is a little bigger, a little more extreme, a little goofier than it could be in any other medium. My favorite comics don’t try to be anything other than a comic, and Moore gets that. While there have been rumblings about an adaptation of the book for film or television, I don’t know if anyone could nail the balance that Moore’s art brings the book.
And that is why “The Strange Talent of Luther Strode” works so well – it has a point of view, a purpose, and a tone that never get overextended. Jordan and Moore do everything in their power to craft a singular book that tells their tale, no more, no less. There is something so refreshing about a book that isn’t trying to redefine comics, or sell t-shirts, or be picked up for a series order before the second issue is released. It is just a great comic.
Final Verdict: 8.5 – Buy