After reading all of Adam Strange’s Silver Age adventures, Max goes over the Adam Strange Man of Two Worlds trade paperback. Does this modern tale hold up to the classics, or is it a dark reflection of those carefree stories from the Silver Age? One way to find out…
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Read the first trade paperback of this project which was also the first book on the top shelf of all of my DC individual character TPBs, Adam Strange the Man of Two Worlds in its entirety last night. Originally running as three prestige format issues under the title Adam Strange in 1990, the story was written by Richard Bruning with pencils and inks by Andy Kubert with brother Adam Kubert doing the colors. I had actually read it a few months back in a similar but undocumented attempt at reading my library and didn’t appreciate it too much then. Parts of it seemed too out of character of the Adam Strange I knew for one, and seemed to be about breaking down the basics of Adam Strange just for the heck of it. Now that I’ve re-read it hot on the heels of reading a majority of Adam’s original appearances from the late 50s – early 60s, I see it a little differently. Now I see it as a modern take on the character and even more than that… But I’m getting ahead of myself.
The story starts out with Adam and Alanna being married for some time and Alanna now pregnant. Her pregnancy is a big deal, as no one has been pregnant on Rann in some twenty cycles. Ranagar being a sterile society is definitely a new twist on Gardner Fox’s old tales! That’s just the beginning, as Alanna’s scientist father Sardath is now the head of the city council, which is comprised of his clones. Moreover, the populace doesn’t appreciate Adam as much as they once did, worrying about an alien taking the head of council’s daughter as a lover. Amidst all these changes, Adam is preparing to say goodbye to Earth forever, as Sardath figures out a way for him to remain on Rann permanently by something called the Meta Zeta Beam.
Adam’s return to Earth gets complicated when he tries to say goodbye to his dying father and encounters his spiteful sister and a Dr. Evelyn Fox who is intrigued by Adam. We learn for the first time about Adam’s life growing up, how he was an unplanned child by elderly parents, how his love of archeology evolved, and how he had an older brother he looked up to. Of course, most of this is revealed as Adam and Evelyn go out drinking, and end up back at her apartment. Even drunk, Adam cheating on Alanna definitely struck me as completely out of character, especially as Evelyn’s answering machine audibly gets the call that Adam’s father has died and that she must notify the Strange family. However, Adam himself later admits he thought he was spending his last time on Earth. That makes it a bit more believable.
A hellish hallucinogenic Meta Zeta Beam ride back to Rann has Adam seeing visions of Sardath torturing Alanna, so that when he actually arrives on Rann and sees Sardath, he beats the hell out of him. This is all the restless people untrusting of Adam need to incite rebellion, and things get increasingly crazy from there as Adam becomes a hunted man. Ranagar society falls into ruin without their leader Sardath to govern, nor their hero Adam Strange to save them from the increasing chaos.
Meanwhile, after Adam left his day planner back at Evelyn’s apartment, she has talked herself into catching the final Meta Zeta Beam to Rann striking in Rio to follow Adam. She successfully gets zapped, and arrives as all hell is breaking loose and when she finally finds Adam, Alanna is about to give birth. Good thing Evelyn Fox is a doctor! “Waitaminute, Adam, is this your child?” Evelyn asks Adam—awkward to say the least.
I don’t want to give the ending away, but things only get worse from there and the climax is pretty crazy. The only sad thing is that while this story really shook up the status quo, a character who died in it didn’t stay dead, and a couple ideas implemented in it were ignored, with some major changes being reverted back to normal in future stories. No wonder I thought this story was so out of place when I read it the first time! However, there are really cool aspects to having such a dark story in the Adam Strange cannon. There’s a part where Adam must consider that all those giant monsters he fought over the years might be so hostile because he was disturbing their environment and threatening their families. That’s something unheard of in 1958 of course, which made this such a great story: it’s a real modern look at the Adam Strange character that’s kind of in response to the innocent tales of the Silver Age.
There are modern sci-fi concepts in play with the classic ones, and more modern issues. How would a race feel about an alien savior? An alien who took one of their native race as a lover? Now if you think about it, I could be talking about Superman and Lois Lane on Earth. Adam Strange is the same concept, just crisscrossed, where the Earthman is the alien. Bruning does give Adam Strange a dark turn, but he was following in the footsteps of Alan Moore’s Watchmen and Swamp Thing (the latter which actually featured issues with Adam Strange and Rann that preceded and slightly influenced this project) and Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns and Batman Year One. He wanted to make a story that took a look at Adam Strange under modern context and make him matter again. While the work isn’t quite the caliber of those other books, I think he succeeded.
And this is all without mentioning the artwork of the Kuberts. One of their more early works, the younger Kuberts were nailing it even back then. Andy’s artwork is phenomenal and dynamic and Adam’s colors breathe life into it all. The pair capture Rann and its inhabitants with a unique look that Bruning admits added a lot to the project in the forward. From Adam’s tender flashbacks of being a child to the citizens of Ranagar being skeletonized en mass by death rays, the art looks fantastic. Facial expressions are also nicely done, especially in the Sardath clones of the council going murderously mad. Truly, the brothers Kubert were a worthy modern follow up to Infantino for Adam Strange.
I definitely enjoyed this more than I thought I would reading it the second time. The big difference I think was reading the Silver Age Adam Strange stuff, which formed the basis for what Adam Strange the Man of Two Worlds deconstructs, and does so very well. That’s it for tonight. I want to start my next book, Adam Strange Planet Heist but it’s getting late and my wife wants to go to bed.
Tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow….
Until next time!