Adam Strange: Planet Heist review

Thursday, June 22, 2006

One thing DC’s been really good at in the Didio era is bringing together writers and artists who combined create a near definitive run on a character or team. Jeph Loeb and Jim Lee on Batman is one, of course; also Geoff Johns and Scott Kolins on The Flash; Greg Rucka and Drew Johnson on Wonder Woman; and Joe Kelly, Doug Mahnke, and Dustin Nguyen on Justice League Elite. The next in line is Andy Diggle and Pascaul Ferry on Adam Strange. I’ve been a fan of Perry since his Action Comics and Superboy days, and he receives here his well-deserved time to shine. I held out for Ferry possibly on a Nightwing book, but his space-y, lushly colored artwork on Adam Strange is just as good. I’m not at all familiar with Andy Diggle’s work, knowing his name only in connection with The Losers, but in Adam Strange he writes a fast-paced, easily accessible plot, with all the expected space adventure trappings and a couple of surprises for good measure.

Adam Strange: Planet Heist opens with an earthbound Strange wanted for blowing up an apartment building; we learn that Strange has lived in a downward spiral ever since learning of the destruction of his adopted planet Rann. When two bounty hunters arrive, Strange learns that there may be more to Rann’s demise than it seems, and he heads to space, facing one mis-adventure after another. Strange escapes the clutches of a Thanagarian gulag only to encounter a mysterious weapon in the hands of the Omega Men; after a run-in with Vril Dox of L.E.G.I.O.N., Strange makes his way to the pocket dimension where Strange’s father-in-law Sardath hid the planet to save it from a star-eating conqueror. Strange, the Omega Men, the L.E.G.I.O.N., and the Darkstars must then battle both the cosmic menace and attacking Thangarians to try to restore Rann to its rightful place.

The tone of Planet Heist is definitively space-opera; Diggle employs every Indiana Jones and Star Wars-cliffhanger cliche he can find along the course of this trade, and for fans, it’s good, familiar fun. Diggle makes a smart move at the very beginning by grounding the story in in flip, crime noir roots; by acknowledging and setting aside the silliness of a space man with a fin on his head, the book can celebrate—rather than be held back by—DC’s space genre roots. The story is buffered greatly by Ferry’s art; Adam Strange’s new costume is a busy retro number that’s as twenty-first century as it is 1950s. The well-detailed art in the Earth scenes gives way to a flowing, empty style in space, and all the color effects have a dreamy quality. Ferry takes great liberties with the aliens he draws—including a dramatically redesigned Durlan—making the species frightening and fascinating at the same time.

My one complaint would be that, for a series that was supposed to reintroduce the space aspects of the DCU, many of the space characters seemed more window dressing than valuable players. The Omega Men appear the most, but little effort is made to attach their names to their faces, lessening the audience’s emotional attachment to anyone except Tigorr. The L.E.G.I.O.N., we find, is now comprised entirely of robots except for Vril Dox; it was hardly the L.E.G.I.O.N. reunion that I had hoped for. Other space creatures, including the Space Cabbie, Warworld, Lobo, or any of the former Green Lanterns, are conspicuously absent; the few remaining Darkstars appear only, unfortunately, to be quickly snuffed out. One high point, however, is the story’s mystery villain; I’m a big fan of the last time this baddie appeared, and the revelation should bring a smile to longtime DCU fans.

[Contains full covers, sketchbook section.]

So I do think Adam Strange: Planet Heist is worth reading, and especially if you’re about to pick up The Rann/Thanagar War, I wouldn’t hesitate to start here instead. I’m reading some of the Formerly Known as the Justice League stuff right now, and more reviews will be up in not too short a time. Stick around.
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6 comments:

  1. Great to see "Starbreaker" in "Planet -Heist" I have the original JLA's 96-98 where he is definately based on Robert Quarry's "Count Yorga" vampire in the three films 1970/71. I think DC wanted a villian as powerful as Marvel's "Galactus! But that's just a guess!

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  2. One of my favorite Starbreaker stories is from the Jurgens Justice League run; I was very glad to see him brought back here.

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  3. I also have that series Collecteditions! Justice League 63-65. The only drawback to such a powerful villian is that he can only rarely appear. I would hope not as I have a soft spot for someone who creamed Superman twice! Starbreaker first clobbered the `Man-Of-Steel` in the original JLA series No 97. I Think he could have only been introduced by early 1972 (JLA #96 Feb 72) due to the relaxation of the Comic Code (Marvels "Spiderman" drug story was the test-case) which allowed Vampires etc to be represented!

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  4. It occurs to me that Starbreaker might've been a great choice instead of this Lady Styx bad-guy who's been bothering the cosmic heroes of late. Styx seems just so plainly-bad, while Starbreaker's been around for a while and has some history. Hope we see him around again soon.

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  5. Collectededitions. I agree. The only problem having a character like Starbreaker is that due to his incredible power it makes it difficult to think up means of defeating him often and credibly!
    After all; at full strength, he is virtually unstoppable! He is quite different back in JLAs 96-98, bieng based on the "Count Yorga" character from those films! I certainly hope DC can use him again.

    Adam Strange was a pretty bland character back then. In "Planet Heist" he is far more rounded as a character! Must admit that I quite liked the Omega men and must try and get the Rann-Thanagar war series!

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  6. Adam Strange: Planet Heist made me interested in the Omega Men, too, and I was sorry DC never collected the spin-off miniseries.

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