“The Strange Talent of Luther Strode,” two issues in, is rapidly making creators Justin Jordan and Tradd Moore names to keep an eye on. There’s a good reason for that; this book is strange, but its creators are most definitely talented.
No doubt inspired by the old Charles Atlas advertisements where the skinny weakling learns how to pump up and beat the local bully, Luther Strode is using the Hercules Method book to become super-muscular, stop the bullies, and defend his mother. He’s become super-muscular, but nothing else seems to have gone quite as planned. Jordan has the school bully even more angry than ever, he’s having problems controlling his impulses, his best friend Pete doesn’t seem to truly understand what’s going on, and there’s also that creepy guy who’s connected with the Hercules Method that is starting to actively enter the rest of the story.
Luther’s the character at the heart of the story, and Jordan does a great job of letting us inside his head. We can quickly see Luther’s mixed emotions over his transformation; he’s powerful, he’s able to do all these things, but at the same time we can see how everything is slowly slipping out of his grasp. At the heart of Luther, though, is a sweet kid and it’s that essential core that makes us want Luther to succeed in spite of the slowly strengthening spiral that he’s slipping into.
While Luther’s the core of the book, his new girlfriend Petra is a great addition to the supporting cast. Jordan mentions in the afterword that he “didn’t want to write a trophy character or a woman who was likely to end in a fridge,” and he succeeds at both. Petra’s got a strong personality that drives scenes even more so than Luther, and she’s anything but a damsel in distress. If there was a sequel mini-series involving Petra, just based on these two issues I’d read it. Or, more likely, just want to hang out with the real-life version and be best friends.
This new issue of “The Strange Talent of Luther Strode” is creepier than the first, and that’s not only because of Jordan’s script but also Moore’s art. When we first see Luther starting to lose control, it’s scary not just because of the actions that Jordan dreams up, but how Moore draws them so carefully. There’s that look of uncontrollable rage on his face that sets the scene perfectly as things domino all around. While the violence is cartoonish in terms of how over the top it goes, it’s also disturbingly gory. I also like that Moore draws Luther as distinctly stronger than in the first issue — he fills out his t-shirt with muscle, but not in a ridiculous manner — and even the little details like having Luther’s face be more solid are taken into account here. You believe that this guy has become a powerhouse, even before the yoga scene where we get an idea of just how ripped Luther now truly is. And yet, despite it all, Moore still has that awkward gawky charm attached to Luther (like when Petra shows up at the apartment), reminding us that this is still a kid. Moore has fun with Luther’s room, too, in making it that of a teenager and not an adult. I’m sure I’m not the only one who tried to identify all the posters on the walls, if nothing else. (I caught “100 Bullets,” “All-Star Superman,” “Dragon Ball,” “Akira,” “The Iron Giant,” and “The Thing,” but I’m sure I missed at least one.)
“The Strange Talent of Luther Strode” is a third of the way over and I’m loving it. The overall villain hasn’t even directly interacted with Luther yet and he’s immensely disturbing (the apron is a nice touch), and I actually found myself worrying about Luther by the end of the comic. (Then I remembered he’s a fictional character.) This is a gory, awesome, nasty, gripping, crazy, fun comic. It’s by the kind of new voices that comics needs, an energetic infusion of raw talent. Check it out.