Adam Strange, hero of Rann, gained that title through methods the Justice League considers unjust. His actions during Rann’s war with the Pyykt seemed unfair. The Justice League may not publicly say it, but his actions would be considered war crimes by most standards. However, would the public prefer a hero who fights fair that could inevitably lead to another calamity like what destroyed Phoenix, Arizona, or one that treats the Pyykt like the monsters they are? Tom King has basically built his comic writing career off of questioning the morality of superheroes, and the latest issue of Strange Adventures is no exception. Spoilers for the ninth issue of Strange Adventures ahead!
While we do not see what happened to Adam and Alanna’s daughter, her death has been a lingering shadow over their present selves. Their attitude about the war, the way they talk about it with Mister Terrific and the stark difference between who Adam was and who he is now make it obvious that her death broke them. This issue makes it clear that the “harsh” actions Adam took against the Pyykt were in direct response to, not just the torture they put him through as their captive, but the death of his daughter as well. All of this pain and suffering would destroy any normal person, which is likely why so many people on Earth sympathize with Adam’s story.
With the Justice League having finally put out an official statement discussing Adam’s actions during the war and officially revoking his Justice League membership, it is not up to the world to decide whether he is the hero they need. However, the most interesting thing about the statement, is that it seems to come from Batman and not Mister Terrific. Could Mister Terrific’s conversations with Alanna influence his judgement?
The art throughout this issue, both from Mitch Gerads and Doc Shaner, feels desolate despite the vibrant colors present throughout. The two portray the dirtiness of war perfectly, and the darker color palette in Shaner’s panels especially showcase how much Adam’s attitude toward the Pyykt changed after the death of his daughter. If it wasn’t for the flatness of the lines and clear detailing of Adam’s face, I might have mistaken Shaner’s art for Gerads’. The tones of the two halves of the story are beginning to blur together as the Adam of the past becomes the Adam of the present as we see first hand the terrible things he has done for the safety of Rann and its people.
However, the most interesting element of this issue is the way Adam interacts with the other members of the Justice League despite their public statement about him. They were once his friends, and he still treats them as such. I especially love the moment between him and Superman. After Superman criticizes Adam’s actions on Rann, Adam responds by implying that had Superman listened to him when he begged for his help, Adam might not have been forced to go to such lengths for victory. His daughter might still be alive if Superman had helped him. Gerads’ artwork in that panel is devastating, as we see Adam yelling with such emotion, likely crying as he says it, while only seeing the bottom half of his face.
It does not feel like hyperbole to say that this is the best issue of Strange Adventures so far. I felt the emotion ripped out of me as I continued to read, feeling empty once I got to the end of the issue.