I got my driver's license renewed today and it was sooo great.

*Outside Dramatics Department:



Act I: The Dream

Act II: Kiss of the Lash

***A Pertinent Interlude***

Act III: A Capitalism of Skeletons Crack’d

Act IV: The Papal Throne (EDIT 6/12/05 8:26 PM: Oh no! His Eminence has abdicated!)

***Another Pertinent Interlude***

Act V: Apologies Expected, Apologies Demanded (kindly scroll to the bottom)

Please stay seated before your Internet Machine for further installments of this tear-stained pageant.

Tom Strong #33

What this issue really needed was a better cover. Tom and Solomon rushing into a room bathed in red light, eyes wide and arms outstretched, Tom bellowing “NO! Pneuman! If you keep erasing that data… YOU’LL START WORLD WAR III!!!” And Pneuman is attached by wires to a massive computer terminal, hands relaxed at his sides, calmly replying “Why, Master Tom… *sss* what does it look like I’m TRYING *ktik* to do?”

Or maybe just a jollier cover. “Pneuman! Robots can’t play rock and roll!” “Too late *skrrikk* Master Tom… I’m the new lead singer *ktik* of Motormetal Beatbox!”

But no, we have a classier cover, a smoothly contemporary Chris Sprouse creation, a sensible logo and a concise block of hype text spread across the top (which you can't see at the prior link, sorry), with Tom and Solomon blasting off into action. It should have been a little more garish, a little more representative of what waits inside. It’s not an issue-killing flub or anything, but it’s a missed opportunity.

Joe Casey writes this issue’s story as a gently silly Silver Age fable, not a parody but an evocation of amusing antics and bold adventures, with a little bit of fighting and a friendly lesson learned at the end. Pneuman, faithful robot butler of Tom Strong, is acting oddly. In addition to his sudden interests in noise music and global information sabotage, he’s also running for mayor and generally being curious. Naturally, the only way to get to the bottom of this is for Tom and Solomon to shrink down to tiny size and venture through Pneuman’s body. But a mysterious force has set deadly traps for Our Heroes! Using their wits and power, the heroes must overcome their challenges and maybe set up a positive solution for everyone.

Very simple stuff. Still, it’s a nice bit of ‘light’ superheroics in an old style (yet not tied by homage to any specific story or character I can think of). The art, by Ben Oliver, is a different matter. The character designs are sharp, with small slices of lines on faces, and sparse shadows a thick black, much like the outlines. I caught a bit of Paul Pope in Tesla’s face on page 2 The backgrounds are airy and somewhat minimal, with suggestions of shapes filled in with JD Mettler’s colors, all to convey vast spaces, even before everyone shrinks. It’s a decent visual style, though one wouldn’t think it could mesh very well with Casey’s throwback tone. And yet, again, it’s not a problem. It’s not really a benefit either (at least no more of a benefit than ‘good looking art’ normally is), though the old and new mix together fairly well.

It’s ok. Uneasy in parts, but decent as a whole. Ah, but for a more energetic cover…