Jordan and Moore offer up another visually arresting vision of violence as “The Legacy Of Luther Strode” continues.
Written by Justin Jordan
Colours by Tradd Moore
With the help of Delilah, Luther and Petra have tracked the cult to Russia, where they have to confront their deadliest foe yet…the Gardener!
“The Legacy Of Luther Strode” is the final act of a three arc story of increasingly epic scale. Luther, a classic bully-magnet turned superhuman juggernaut, has managed to master his strange powers and even become a costumed crime fighter. However, he’s still less-than-certain about where his abilities come from. Jordan and Moore have announced that this run will be the last in Strode’s own story and so we can expect catharsis and carnage in equal measure as Strode and his allies venture out on a quest to get to the bottom of the mystery of the ‘Talented’ individuals.
Issue one kicked off events at break-neck speed and issue two follows in its fleet-footed steps but, and credit to Jordan and Moore for this, the third incarnation of Strode and co still feels like a book that could stand on its own if needs be.
I’ll be honest, I hadn’t heard of Luther Strode until the first issue of “Legacy” dropped and it was Moore’s hyper-stylised stint on “All-New Ghost Rider” that first brought him to my attention and left me searching for more. When I discovered he was also part of a creator-owned image comic I was excited to see how the high-velocity artwork he was offering up for the mainstream would translate without the shackles of a shared universe to hold him back.
That book was “The Legacy Of Luther Strode” issue one and it well and truly delivered. Moore’s art for this series operates at a pretty much hyper-speed, with everything I loved about his work on “Ghost Rider: Engines of Vengeance” pushed even further into overdrive, and issue two doesn’t break pace at all. Moore’s strength lies in his fluid, kinetic execution and his ability to adjust the speed at which the story unfolds with precision control of imagery. This is incredibly important in a book like “The Legacy Of Luther Strode”, as the narrative is designed to give way to larger, almost indulgent fight-scenes that feel manga-esque in their portrayal. Moore treats the fights between Strode and his foes as stories in their own rights, using a mixture of fast-paced panelling and super-slow decompression to keep the overall pace of the battle flowing while slowing it down for key moments. The battle in issue two, a fist-fight between Strode and the enigmatic ‘Gardener’ goes on for a little shy of 20 pages, but Moore is able to adjust the ebb and flow of the fight in such a way that it feels more like the movements of an orchestral performance than an overloaded wall of punk-rock rage.
The key to this is the way that Moore varies his panels’ focus, jumping between hugely destructive splash-panels and hyper close-up panels for reactions. This gives every punch an emotional, as well as physical, weight, and allows for Delilah and Petra (who, by the way, get their fair share of action too) to help ground the acts of super-strength with a relatably human viewpoint. Honestly, the whole issue is visually quite reminiscent of classic Dragonball Z episodes, and Moore’s rendition of Strode’s monk-like robes (along with the hulking, almost alien frame of the Gardener) definitely offer welcome visual parallels between Goku and the host of off-worlders that he battled over the years.
As far as narrative goes, “The Legacy Of Luther Strode” isn’t a complex tale of mystery with twists and turns every other panel. But Jordan uses the relative simplicity of the overarching story (boy develops powers, boy discovers he’s not alone, boy sets out to find the root of his powers) to surprise the audience at unexpected turns. While Strode’s story started out as a relatively contained tale, the scope of its reach has expanded from arc to arc, name-dropping fabled strong-men throughout history and even getting biblical with the mention of Cain. With the inclusion of yet another string of mythical characters in the first issue (Samson and Delilah’s appearance makes for one hell of an opener) Jordan has begun to tie together characters from his own narrative with that of a larger shared story space to give Strode an appropriately epic send-off.Continued below
But Jordan’s true talent is his ability to tell a very visual, nuanced story with minimal dialogue. While, on paper, the idea for both the first and second issues of “The Legacy Of Luther Strode” could be summed up as ‘Luther meets another talented individual, they fight’, Jordan is able to imbue these scenes with a sense of narrative structure that shows the continued growth of Strode as a character and the increased danger he faces as he seeks the truth. Jordan’s dialogue is sparse but witty and driven by character, never feeling expositional. His soft, tender back and forths between Petra and Strode serve both to humanise the characters and endear them to us, in a way that feels slightly like some of the more impressive interactions between Superman and Lois Lane… if Lois was a foul-mouthed master markswoman.
Issue two shows Jordan’s confidence in his and Moore’s ability to tell an almost entirely visual story as the majority of the issue takes place in untranslated Russian. It’s a bold move, and Jordan acknowledges that it could be a polarising one, but he handles it with such skill that it feels like a throwback to the best silent films. Rather than leaving the reader confused it forces you to intuit from other sources what is happening, and it’s exactly that kind of experimental comic-book making that is really pushing Image ahead in terms of creativity and daring at the moment.
Final Verdict: 7.3 – A Super-slug-fest with heart, in more ways than one, this is another step towards a crescendo of a final act.