Since it's been some time since the previous installment of their trilogy, one might think that Justin Jordan, Tradd Moore and Felipe Sobiero would need a little bit of time to settle back in to the world of mysteriously powered strongmen. However, the creative team immediately returns to its brutal, gloriously violent roots with "The Legacy of Luther Strode" #1.
Jordan, a great writer full of big concepts, knows that the strength of this series is the art team and wastes no time allowing them to unleash their full power on readers. He ties up previous dangling threads in a breakout scene that sees Strode overpower police and rescue Petra before dashing off into the sunset. Moore takes the monstrously overpowered character and somehow makes his actions seem cartoonish even for a comic. There are anime influences from the battles from classics like "Dragon Ball Z," "Fist of the North Star" and "Urotsukidoji," as muscles tense to the point of bursting, characters yell beyond the limit of their capillaries and debris bubbles and crests before everything explodes from the wind up, not so much like an uncoiling but more like a star going supernova. Moore, never a fan of a straight line when a curved one will enhance the panel, illustrates the tale in waves, with bodies and environment rolling and undulating like the tides.
This series has been well-known for its gore and, though this issue delivers, it's poetically and respectfully restrained. Jordan paces the extra-sized story with quieter moments that are fraught with tension, leading to a cathartic release when a big moment of violence finally occurs. As Strode confronts the killers in this issue, he slowly approaches them, a gunslinger preparing for battle, hoping that words will win over violence. As that slowly proves to not be the case, the action scenario plays out through their abilities to foresee the way a fight would progress and, just as the plot is about to explode with fists, one of the antagonists' head explodes from Petra's bullet, the impact collapsing his face and leaving concentric halos of blood cracking from behind his skull. From there, it's all fists and fury, culminating in an insane highway showdown that gives Moore and Sobiero a chance to unleash hell.
The action is fun but leaves readers with little in the way of clues as to how this story will unfold over the next several issues. One would suspect this is on purpose, as Jordan -- a master plotter with a penchant for the downbeat in this series -- is most likely giving readers the closest thing to a happy ending that Strode will ever experience. Jordan revels in the violence, but the underlying theme of the series has been about how giving into one's own power has never left anyone with a happy ending. Jordan opens the book with a flashback to old-school strongman Samson and the betrayal that cost him everything. Though it's unknown whether or not this will play out similarly in the present day, it's a clear guidepost of what happens when someone allows their existence to be defined by power.
"The Legacy of Luther Strode" #1 is exactly what fans of the trilogy would hope for: an oversized issue for the price of a standard-sized issue from Marvel or DC. It may leave new readers a bit confused but, hopefully, intrigued enough by the stylized presentation to check out the previous installments. Jordan, Moore and Sobiero work in tandem to wrap up their career-launching work and it's clear that they're treating their baby with the respect he deserves. This book is gore-ious.