Written by Justin Jordan
Art by Tradd Moore
24 pages, color
Published by Image Comics
I know I’m not the only person who, back in the day, sent away for the free Charles Atlas guide to become a muscle man. I never actually read it, mind you; my sisters found out I’d ordered it and teased me so mercilessly that it got thrown out, unopened. But if you’ve ever read old comics, or issues of Boy’s Life (for all us former Cub Scouts/Boy Scouts), or anything else from back in the day, you’ll know about the allure of those advertisements. That’s what’s so great about the first issue of The Strange Talent of Luther Strode; Justin Jordan and Tradd Moore have taken boyhood dreams and turned them into something distinctly creepy.
The idea is simple enough at first; skinny, gawky Luther Strode sends away for a book called The Hercules Method that promises to make him buff. Only thing is, it becomes rapidly clear to the reader that the people behind the book have some less than savory connections. But as Luther starts using the book, the impossible begins to happen… and that’s when things at school start getting really crazy.
Jordan starts the book off just right; after the opening three pages taking place (presumably) near the end of the story, giving us a glimpse of just how powerful and out of control Luther Strode will become, we jump to the powerless Luther. Jordan gives us little flashes of Luther’s life, and why he’d want to get The Hercules Method in the first place. There’s the obvious part where Luther’s being bulled by the jocks at school, but I like some of the less in-your-face pieces of the story. While it’s never outright stated, Luther’s desire to protect his mother (presumably from his father, who appears to be both abusive and currently locked up) is an important part of his character, and it becomes increasingly clear that he’d want to be physically strong to keep her out of danger. When Luther starts talking about needing to make a change in his life, you can see where he’s coming from.
Not quite as developed are Luther’s friend Pete and his hopefully girlfriend-to-be Petra, but at this stage they serve their purposes. I like that Petra’s got the sharp tongue that Luther presumably would want to have, whipping out sharp lines and insults in the face of danger without batting an eye. You can see almost instantly why Luther’s fallen for her, and more importantly, that she’s a good match for him. Pete is more of a sounding board right now, but his presence lets Jordan get exposition about Luther’s home life to the reader without making it feel forced, which is always a good thing.
Moore’s art is great, a mixture of adorable and powerful, depending on what Jordan has him draw. The skinny, underdeveloped Luther looks perfect under Moore’s pencil; his t-shirt hangs off of him, his arms are like twigs, and there’s a perpetual look of doubt on his face. Compare that to when Paul refers to Petra as Luther’s girlfriend, and we get that wonderfully dazed and deliriously happy expression on Luther’s face (complete with hearts dancing around it). Not only is it cute, but Moore has Luther’s face practically light up with energy. His day has only just begun but it feels like a new man, perplexed getting swapped out with radiant.
The way that Moore draws action is also good, here. The dodge ball game works in no small part because you can visually feel the ball whipping back and forth across the court; something as simple as lines to show the arc of Luther’s hand and another set to delineate the path of the ball ends up extremely powerful in Moore’s hands. I appreciate that when the ball hits Paul in the face, the lines tremble a bit to help you sense the impact that just occurred. And when the really, really violent scenes show up? Well, without spoiling anything, let’s just say that I’m glad these aren’t real and that I’m not on clean-up duty.
The Strange Talent of Luther Strode #1 is a strong debut to this mini-series. What initially looks to be sweet and fun has a promise for dark and dangerous, without ever feeling like we’ve gotten a bait-and-switch. The story is strong and flows from one moment to the next, and the art is likewise attractive and pulls you along. Jordan and Moore might be new names to comics now, but anyone who reads The Strange Talent of Luther Strode won’t forget Jordan and Moore’s names. This book twists an icon of masculinity and turns it into something creepy, and I for one love it. Highly recommended.