Right around the turn of the century, America’s Best Comics arrived on the scene to save us all from the grim and grit that devoured so many comics of the 1990s.  And in an ABC Comics, things get complex, fast…  Your Major Spoilers (Retro) Review of Tom Strong #20 awaits!

TOM STRONG #20
Writer: Alan Moore
Penciler: Jerry Ordway
Inker: Karl Story
Colorist: Dave Stewart
Letterer: Todd Klein
Editor: Kristy Quinn
Publisher: America’s Best Comics
Cover Price: $2.95
Current Near-Mint Pricing: $3.oo

Previously in Tom Strong: A couple of years ago, we took a Retro Review look at Tom Strong #1, featuring the origins of our hero.  After his parents were shipwrecked on a scientific expidition, Tom was born on the island of Attabar Teru.  Raised in high gravity for superior strength, and taught the best science that the 1900s had to offer, he grew into a powerful man.  Tom is also very long-lived, thanks to the goloka root eaten by the natives of Attabar Teru, who raised him after his parents died in an unexpected volcanic eruption.  Upon achieving adulthood, Tom moved back to Millenium City and became its champion, the greatest science hero of the age.

Except for when he didn’t.  This issue opens in mid-conversation, as a strange woman who has invaded Tom’s Stronghold desperately tries to convince him of her intentions…

Having disabled Tom’s robot majordomo, Pneuman, and even defeated his powerful gorilla friend, King Solomon, she relates to Tom strong the real story of his mother.   Before agreeing to marry Sinclair Strong, Susan had a things with Foster Parallax, who had more than a little scientific genius of his own…

Keeping her secrets to herself, Susan carried Parallax’s locket with her as she courted, then married Sinclair Strong.  But the morning that the Strongs were setting off for Attabar Teru, she was distracted by a strange woman on the dockside, delaying their voyage just enough to make all the difference in the world(s)…

Rather than seeing their captain killed, Susan lost her husband, and was shipwrecked with Tomas Stone on Attabar Teru.  Whether grief or something else, being trapped on the island with Tomas caused Susan to react in an unexpected way…

Thus did Susan still have a child, and in this strange time divergent world, she chose the same name for her son that she had in the first reality…

The volcanic eruption and subsequent Earthquake that killed her and her husband in Tom Strong’s world still occurred, but since Tomas Stone had built his home further down the island, they survived, and Tom Stone grew up with two loving parents as well as the village of the Ozu to help him grow.  When Tom Stone reaches 21, he too decides to set off for Millenium City, but he does so as a very different man…

During his early days in Millenium City, Tom Stone faces the same sort of forces that Tom Strong did, but did so as an outsider due to his race.  This, combined with his more human (and perhaps more humane) approach to the world, makes all the difference in the world.  When he meets Paul Saveen, whom Strong deemed a villain and fought mercilessly, Tom Stone finds a kindred spirit…

As awkward as it can be to deal with matters of race, this story handles it deftly and with a bit of humor and humanity, leading to Tom Stone and Paul Saveen becoming not partners, but friends.  In fact, the Stone/Saveen Team becomes the leading name in the science hero biz.  Where “Tom Strong’s girlfriend” Greta Gabriel was transformed by Doctor Permafrost, Saveen and Stone saved her, and Tom brought both his paramour and his partner home with him on a visit to Attabar Teru.

The woman in that last panel?  Dhalua of the Ozu, known in the primary world as Dhalua Strong, Tom’s partner, wife and equal.  In this world?  Things go a little differently…

Many of the panels in this story mirror previous issues of the book, including this one, with Tom Stone in place of Tom Strong and growing differences with each new change.  (Needless to say, Jerry Ordw3ay’s art is first-rate throughout, mimicking the styles of Chris Sprouse with seemingly no effort, and making everything eerily familiar and yet totally different.)  Dhalua still has a beautiful daughter named Tesla, with Paul this time, while Tom Stone’s world improves.  The Stronghold base is still built, named posthumously for the late Sinclair, and Tom even moves his parents to Millennium, where Susan finds herself quite happy…

During a visit with Fingel Parallax (the son of her old beau, and an ally of Tom Strong in the first reality), Susan discovers the truth of her Chronium locket and what has happened to the timestream…

Parallax tells her that the division happened roughly the time that she and Sinclair set out for the Carribean, and Susan suddenly realizes that her happy life, her entire world is nothing but a time-blip.  But, what will she do to protect it?

It turns out, she’ll do nearly anything.  Even with Tom Stone’s tendency to rehabilitate his villains rather than endlessly battle to the death, even with the happiness of his family and his best friend’s family, the heart is a complex beastie.  I’m not saying that Tom and Dhalua make a foolish choice that could lead to armageddon or anything, I’m just saying “Go read Tom Strong.”  Delivering the origins of an alternate Tom in an alternate world, Tom Strong #20 is complex, adult and fascinating, featuring incredibly detailed art, well-crafted narratives and stunning character work, earning 4.5 out of 5 stars overall.  Notably for me, it’s one of the only alternate reality stories where the “real” character isn’t the one who comes out looking like the better choice…

Right around the turn of the century, America's Best Comics arrived on the scene to save us all from the grim and grit that devoured so many comics of the 1990s.  And in an ABC Comics, things get complex, fast...  Your Major Spoilers (Retro) Review of Tom Strong #20 awaits! TOM STRONG #20 Writer: Alan Moore Penciler: Jerry Ordway Inker: Karl Story Colorist: Dave Stewart Letterer: Todd Klein Editor: Kristy Quinn Publisher: America's Best Comics Cover Price: $2.95 Current Near-Mint Pricing: $3.oo Previously in Tom Strong: A couple of years ago, we took a Retro Review look at Tom Strong…
Well-written, adult, complex and endearing with the wonderful art of Ordway to sell it all? Yeah, I'm in...

TOM STRONG #20

Writing
Art
Coloring

Well-written, adult, complex and endearing with the wonderful art of Ordway to sell it all? Yeah, I'm in...

User Rating: 0.45 ( 1 votes)

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The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture!

And a nice red uniform.

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