05 December 2016

Review: Adam Strange: Planet Heist by Andy Diggle and Pascal Ferry

Also-- I have a review of a new Doctor Who audio drama up at Unreality SF, the reunion of the fourth Doctor and the second Romana in Wave of Destruction.

Comic trade paperback, n.pag.
Published 2005 (contents: 2004-05)

Acquired and read August 2016
Adam Strange: Planet Heist

Writer: Andy Diggle
Artist: Pascal Ferry
Colorist: Dave McCaig
Letterer: Rob Leigh

After R.E.B.E.L.S. concluded in 1996, DC's space heroes lay fallow for about a decade, minus the occasional cameo here or there. From Omega Men in 1983 to R.E.B.E.L.S., DC had built up a vast outer-space mythos that was largely going unused, except for cameos in Green Lantern tales. DC finally ended that trend in 2004 with Adam Strange: Planet Heist, a story that reinvented space adventurer Adam Strange-- but in a much funner way than Man of Two Worlds.

When Planet Heist opens, Adam is pretty sad: he thinks his adopted planet and family are dead. But soon evidence appears that they might still be alive when bounty hunters try to kill Adam in his Gotham apartment, and he begins an interstellar journey to prove his family is still alive, one that brings him into contact with characters from Hawkman, Omega Men, L.E.G.I.O.N./R.E.B.E.L.S., and even The Darkstars. (Somehow, Bob the Galactic Bum is the only of the 1980s/90s DC space series to go unreferenced.) It's in this "grand tour of the DC space mythos" element that the book really succeeds: DC has a number of fun and interesting space properties, and Planet Heist doesn't just revive Adam Strange for the 2000s, but provides tantalizing hints of many other series, creating a feeling of a Star Warsesque realized galaxy. As someone who had read all the stuff being referenced, it was fun to see old friends like Vril Dox, Doc of the Omega Men, and even Ferrin Colos used in new and exciting ways, and old settings like Maltus, but Diggle writes in such a way that I think you'd enjoy this even if you hadn't read all the stories being referenced: instead you'd be eager to go out and read them. (Similar to how I got into DC's space heroes to begin with through the references in Jim Starlin's Mystery in Space.)

Is this the first meeting between the Omega Men and L.E.G.I.O.N.? I guess they could have met during Invasion!, as they were all locked up in the Starlag, but I don't remember. Though technically Dox hadn't formed L.E.G.I.O.N. yet then.
from Adam Strange vol. 2 #6

Pascal Ferry's artwork is energetic and bold, perfect for a book about outer-space adventures. There's not a lot of gratuitous detail work; Ferry sticks to simple, iconic designs, redesigning almost every character in the book-- to their benefit. Dave McCaig does wonderful work on colors, too, knowing when to go for subdued and gloomy, and when to go for bright and shiny. The final battle is a thing of glory, with everyone coming together against the bad guys in a real powerhouse that is fun to read and watch.

I dunno what's with that weird pattern on the pictures. Did I hit the wrong setting on the scanner?
from Adam Strange vol. 2 #5

Diggle writes a good mystery, too, with some neat sci-fi concepts to explain what's going on and why throughout the series. Pocket universes, Omega Events, matter transportation-- what else could you want? Planet Heist is DC's space comics as they should be, and it's no wonder it sparked off a five-year run of space-set miniseries (Rann-Thanagar War, Mystery in Space, an Omega Men revival, Countdown to Adventure, Rann-Thanagar Holy War, Strange Adventures) that eventually culminated in a revival of R.E.B.E.L.S., DC's first space heroes ongoing in over a decade.

from Adam Strange vol. 2 #2

Continuity Notes:
  • I was amused to note that this book almost entirely ignores The Man of Two Worlds, claiming that Adam and Alanna's daughter was born without incident. But then one of Sardath's clones turns up, a concept introduced in Man of Two Worlds! (Adam narrates his own backstory, though, so maybe he's just simplifying it/glossing over the darkest elements of it. Telling an already skeptical cop your wife died once probably doesn't help your case.)
  • When R.E.B.E.L.S. ended, Vril Dox went into retirement to raise his son and garden, and handed L.E.G.I.O.N. over to Captain Comet. Now, Dox is back in charge, all of his agents are robots, and none of the other characters from L.E.G.I.O.N. are anywhere to be seen. I don't know if this story is told anywhere, or if we just have to accept it's happened in the decade of space history we've missed!
  • Seriously, when I called Darkstars a "forgotten" comic book, I'd've never guessed the return of Ferrin Colos would be a splash page in a comic book ten years later. What a punch-the-air moment!
And his two friends I can never remember who they are! (I'm still mad that Moe died off-panel, un-heralded, though.)
from Adam Strange vol. 2 #8

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