DC Comics’ Strange Adventures has always been about human characters, muddling their way through events of cosmic scope. And with the revelations of the last issue, we see the human fallout of Adam’s choices. Do not read on unless you’ve read Strange Adventures #10. In Strange Adventures #11, writer Tom King, artists Mitch Gerads and Evan “Doc” Shaner, and letterer Clayton Cowles show us a little of the collateral damage of this series. But they promise much more to come!
As Alanna grapples with Adam’s deal with the Pyykt, we also see her follow Adam into the snowy wilderness during the Pyykt-Rann War. King sets up a beautiful juxtaposition in these stories. In the past, we watch Alanna put her life into Adam’s hands, over and over. In the present, we see Alanna kick herself for ever trusting Adam at all. King underscores the heartbreak that’s happening. Lines of dialogue in the past, once expressions of deep love and trust, are echoed in the present, but full of grief. We have one issue to go, and it feels like there is so much left to tie up. But with King’s track record, especially on this series, it’s exciting to see how much he leaves to the ninth inning. We’re in for a wild finale!
Some of the idyllic tone of Shaner’s early art in this series has crept back into these later issues. We aren’t seeing scenes of war and blood. Instead, Shaner shows us Adam and Alanna Strange on the brink of victory. It feels quite clean. But when the violence swoops in, Shaner makes it count. He uses shadows and blood splatters to hint at the horror, letting our minds do the rest of the gruesome work. And when we see the Stranges respond, Alanna is averting her eyes and Adam is looking on in grim reverence. But this violence is soon swept away. It’s replaced by images of them snuggling by a fire. Their ability to shake of horrifying moments is just as troubling as the moments themselves. It’s a brilliant and subtle point that Shaner is making.
Gerads has quite a different task at hand. He’s not trying to make war look peaceful, he’s showing the strife that peacetime can bring. As Alanna and Adam fight, the moments that stand out aren’t the ones of passion and anger. No, it’s the little panels of exasperation and resignation. Between the panels of Alanna yelling and glaring, we get moments of her almost grinning, albeit bitterly. The same is true of Adam. He’s furious at Alanna’s response, but Gerads shows us a step-by-step of the fury setting in. At first he’s the simpering victim he’s been playing all along. Then he tries to be the cool-headed tactician: the leader he was in the war. But eventually, he’s all eyebrows and teeth, like a wild animal backed into a corner. Gerads takes us through the transformation slowly, so that it sets in deep.
Throughout Shaner’s panels, we get the feeling that Adam and Alanna are like lights in the darkness. It’s a fantastic juxtaposition to the modern day scenes of their dying relationship. In Shaner’s scenes, the Stranges are in a snowy landscape. Their skin and elements of their clothing, like Alanna’s rainbow colored scarf, make them pop right off the page. They’re the only source of color. And as the night falls, they huddle around a fire. Shaner shows us this image of their love being something surrounded by darkness. But they shine on.
When we first see Gerads’ scenes, there is a warm orange color to them. It compliments the fire of their anger at one another. But as the scene continues, the Stranges step out onto their balcony. Perhaps it’s the glow from their pool, or the night air mingling with lights on in their house, but the air looks green. And as the issue continues, the green looks stronger and stronger. Gerads shows us the discoloration that’s going on inside them. It’s the green rot of death that’s sneaking in, right as their fight transitions from fury to resignation.
It’s hard to really talk about Cowles’ lettering in this issue. So much of its brilliance happens in pivotal moments that are impossible to quote, without ruining some of this issue’s best scenes. But suffice it to say, Cowles lets the dialogue breathe. He highlights little words, giving them their own word balloon in the midst of tirades, so that we can hear the pause and the emphasis. But he also makes a point of blending some of his sound effects into the backgrounds. When Alanna slaps Adam, the “SLAP” lettering is white on a white background. It’s still totally readable, but it makes her slapping feel weak and like it’s not enough. Adam’s indifference cements this idea. Just as we almost can’t see the slapping noise on the page, we can’t see any effect it’s having on Adam.
DC Comics’ Strange Adventures is nearly finished. With one issue to go, it’s safe to say this has been one of the best series to come out of DC Comics. Pick up Strange Adventures #11, out from DC Comics July 27th, at a comic shop near you!