“I incline to Cain’s heresy…I let my brother go to the devil in his own way.”- Robert Louis Stevenson
It’s been said that there are only three stories that can be told: man vs. man, man vs. nature, and man vs. himself. When it comes to the graphic medium, I’d like to think there is a fourth: man vs. power (I suppose that falls under “man vs. himself,” but whatever; it sounds good and makes me look smarter than I am, so get off my case).
Comic books have been grappling with the idea of mundane individuals obtaining god-like abilities since they first hit newsstands. But stories of this ilk date back even farther. They can be read in tales of Greek and Norse mythology, the lore of the fractured offspring of the Egyptian god Amun, and even the stories of the Bible. Simply put, superhero tales are really nothing new. In fact, they are essentially the very first form of scripted entertainment. They teach lessons about the faults of man. They inspire us. They make us want to strive to be better people (or in some cases, worse people). Hell, some of the characters from ancient mythology even have present day superhero counterparts.
I touch on this because I don’t want it to be misconstrued as something negative when I say that the Luther Strode series of comics doesn’t try to inject anything really new or original into the well-worn superhero genre. I don’t mean that as a slight against the book, because what this comic does is actually incorporate those far flung tales of gods, demigods, and prophets and the dark forces that would oppose them to design a new comic landscape. In doing so, it transforms a simple skinny-kid-gets-superpowers yarn into something with a bit more depth.
The Legacy of Luther Strode is the third (and presumably final) installment of Justin Jordan and Tradd Moore’s take on the old chestnut of “with great powers comes blah, blah blah…” This book picks up five years after the events of The Legend of Luther Strode. We find Strode and his girlfriend, Petra (who is still annoying) hiding out in a remote part of the country after the crimson mess left behind from Strode’s battle with Jack the Ripper (a villain I really liked).
Things seem to be going well for our lovebirds when they catch wind that more “Talented” super folk are causing a ruckus (i.e. smashing people’s heads like rotten cantaloupes for funsies). Strode quickly realizes that he will never find true peace unless he faces Cain, the biblical character who is the first, and ostensibly the most powerful, of the “Talented.”
Now I won’t get into spoiler territory because I know you nerds hate that (and Image wouldn’t be too happy with me if I did), but I will say that Legacy does deliver a satisfying, albeit somewhat abrupt, conclusion to the Luther Strode saga. All the hallmarks of this series are present in this final chapter: horrifying violence, humor, and fast paced storytelling.
Justin Jordan does a solid job of setting up the pins for the final frame, and he knocks them down with earned confidence. He has crafted an interesting world that is populated by so many historical and legendary characters that it’s as if he has taken action figures from ten different cartoons and crafted a new narrative with them (who says Wolverine can’t be a Ghostbuster?).
This is the sort of bonkers mythos blending that really suckers me into a book. Jordan’s writing is tight and most of the dialogue flows well. But what has always really stood out in the Luther Strode series is Moore’s art. This is a guy who understands visual storytelling on a visceral level. The way Moore makes the reader follow the insane action with clean lines and very little distortion is awe inspiring. He never relies on the blurred action panels that many of the manga titles Moore is clearly aping utilize to emphasize the chaos. You see every single bit of sinew and every drop of blood with horrific detail and it is glorious.
The only real negative aspects of this final story arc are how quickly things seem to wrap-up (I could have really used an epilogue) and the irritating female lead. You’d think after 10 years there may have been a bump in Petra’s maturity level. Nope. She still behaves like an awful teenager. In this volume she never feels like she’s influencing the main character’s motivations, which is a trait that is often applied to significant others of superheroes. Nor is she interesting enough to really stand alone as a strong independent heroine. Petra just seems like deadweight at this point, which is unfortunate. This book could have used a non-superpowered character to ground the reader.
But these are small quibbles (yes, I know saying one of the main characters sucks doesn’t seem like a “small quibble” but it is; think back on some of your favorite comics and movies and tell me there isn’t one lead that doesn’t piss you off). The absolutely amazing art by Tradd Moore (side note: if Moore decided to draw a new Fist of the North Star comic, I would read the hell out of it) and Jordan’s no-nonsense pacing more than make up for any issues I had. If they decided to crank out another six volumes of Strode, I wouldn’t mind. I don’t foresee Luther Strode being one of the greats in our current pantheon of superheroes, but the character certainly has not worn out his welcome.
The Legacy of Luther Strode is a gorgeous and fast-paced finale to a stellar series that truly left me wanting more. I hope Jordan and Moore plan on collaborating again (seriously, can we get these guys to do a new Fist of the North Star?), even if the Luther Strode story is truly over.
- Amazing fight scenes
- Moore’s art is stellar
- Satisfying conclusion
- Petra sucks
- Ending was little too tidy