Monday, September 17, 2012

The Strange Talent of Luther Strode

Written by Justin Jordan
Art by Tradd Moore
            The superhero deconstruction has long been “the big thing”, at least as far back as Watchmen, and probably even further back.  The problem with some of these deconstructions is that they can fail to work on an emotional level.  It’s nice and all to take what we think about superheroes and tear it apart, but if you do it out of spite, then the audience can’t connect.  The Strange Talent of Luther Strode is a comic that lets the audience connect, just so it can hurt emotionally.
            The book stars Luther Strode, a weak high school nerd who orders a Hercules Method book that’s supposed to give him muscles.  What it actually ends up doing is giving him incredible powers of strength and foresight, able to see what people are going to do before they do it.  From there, his friend Pete suggests the next logical step: become a superhero.
            And a big part of this book is exactly how much things go wrong in that idea.  On a simple level, Luther’s attempts to find criminals quickly end in failure and boredom.  But then there’s the fact that Luther’s power might be driving him further than he wants to go.  An early page of the book shows a preview of the level of violence that he ends up causing, and I’ll say now this is not for the squeamish.  Tradd Moore’s art is unflinchingly gory, and the often unique ways that people end up being killed, maimed, or otherwise harmed becomes more frequent the further the book goes on.  If you look past the simple violence, though, it’s this feeling…well, to go to another hero, great power and responsibility and etc.  Justin Jordan himself, in some of the notes, says that part of Luther’s problem is that he never had an Uncle Ben.  And in this case, there’s only so much pure fantasy of what he could do and trying to hold back until he finally lets loose.
            And so the book does deconstruct in that way.  But it makes sure you care for Luther as a character.  In Mark Millar’s Wanted, I ended up not really caring for the main character.  This was more than likely the point of Millar’s own deconstruction, but it’s hard to read a comic when you want the main character to just shut up.  Luther Strode, on the other hand, is a character you grow to like.  He cares for his mother, wants to get the girl, and just wants to be a superhero.  And that’s what makes it so much harder when things start falling apart for him.  Everything he has can’t stop either human nature or the ultimate villain of the story.
            With a sequel series coming out later this year, it’s really time to read all about Luther Strode’s strange talent.  It’s violent but intelligent, deconstructive with heart.  It’s the comic you can’t put down, especially once you realize where things are going.

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