Adam Strange: Planet Heist


By Andy Diggle, Pasqual Ferry & Dave McCaig (DC Comics)
ISBN: 9787-1-4012-0727-4 (TPB/Digital)

As the Silver Age began in 1956 – reintroducing superheroes to markets overflowing with cops and cowboys and cosmic invaders – try-out vehicle Showcase #17 (cover-dated November/December 1958) launched a true hero for the space-age in a feature entitled ‘Adventures on Other Worlds’.

An instant success, it debuted as the lead in Mystery in Space #53, beguiling and enthralling a fresh generation of thrill-starved, starry-eyed  kids under the title Adam Strange.

Strange was an Terran archaeologist who, whilst fleeing from enraged tribesmen in Peru, jumped a 25ft chasm only to be hit by a stray teleport beam from a planet orbiting Alpha Centauri. He rematerialised on another world, filled with uncanny monsters and fabulous civilisations, and was rescued by a beautiful woman named Alanna.

Rann was a world of constant danger: non-stop peril for which brains, not brawn, were the best solution, but Strange was only able to stay on the atomic-war scarred planet for as long as it took the teleporting Zeta Beam radiation to dissipate, whence he would fade away to reappear on Earth until the next beam struck. He found true love with Alanna and unparalleled adventure, but the universe seemed determined to keep them apart.

After years of travail and turmoil Adam finally relocated permanently to Rann, but his new homeworld grew no less dangerous…

This smartly compelling rollercoaster ride (collecting an 8-issue miniseries acting as a prequel and introduction to the many story-strands forming the astoundingly ambitious Infinite Crisis crossover mega-event) finds the former academician on Earth to wrap up his affairs. However, when he is ready to depart, the Zeta beam fails to arrive…

After months of increasingly desperate research, his Justice League contacts reveal that Rann is gone: while he packed trinkets and underwear, a supernova wiped out everything he ever knew and loved…

Desolate and off the rails, Strange’s life goes swiftly downhill – until he is attacked by alien bounty hunters. In the wake of the resultant destruction, he knows something is not kosher, and the only logical conclusion must be that Rann still exists…

This is a breakneck-paced science fiction conspiracy-mystery that finally revives the rational, intellectual hero fans haven’t seen since the end of the Julie Schwartz days: an indomitable fighter who thinks things out as he roars through the universe, accused of destroying the very world he seeks, meeting – and usually pursued by – a legion of DC’s outer space icons such as Vril Dox, bellicose Thanagarians, the Omega Men and paramilitary space cops the Dark Stars, as well as an unexpected surprise über-villain…

Deducing a greater threat to all reality, avoiding the guns of a billion bloodthirsty foes and the machinations of many malignant masterminds, Adam Strange fights to regain his family and world and in so doing unravels a plot to shake the very stars…

Bombast and hyperbole aside, Planet Heist is a superb thriller (regrettably still not available in digital form) heavily draped in DC’s convoluted history and continuity, yet somehow still fresh and streamlined enough to entertain the most clueless neophyte and seasoned canon-feeder equally.

British writer Andy Diggle (Green Arrow: Year One, The Losers, Deadpool, Daredevil, Shadowland, James Bond 007, Star Wars) shines, blending astral wonderment with the gritty realism he’s famed for. The forceful illustration of Spain’s “Pascal” Ferry (Thor, Superman, Ultimate Fantastic Four, Tom Strong) – whose actual name Pasqual was apparently too tricky for English speakers – combines with colourist Dave McCaig’s lush, painterly hues to make even the most fantastic moments utterly authentic. This brilliant tale only falters on the last page, and that’s because the solution leads inexorably to another book…

Gripping and fun, this rocket-paced riot is well worth the time and attention of every fan of fantastic fiction, but be warned: for final resolutions you’ll need to read Rann-Thanagar War and Infinite Crisis… so you might as well line them all up as well as the other Infinite Crisis prequel series…
© 2004, 2005 DC Comics.  All Rights Reserved.

Adam Strange Archives volume 3 


By Gardner F. Fox, Carmine Infantino, Murphy Anderson, John Giunta, Sid Greene, Joe Giella & various (DC Comics) 
ISBN: 978-1-4012-1661-0 (HB) 

For me and so many more aging Baby-Boomer brats, Adam Strange, more than any other character, epitomises the Silver Age of Comics. An Earth archaeologist who, whilst fleeing from enraged “ jungle natives” in Peru, jumped a 25 foot chasm, only to be hit by a stray teleport beam from a planet orbiting Alpha Centauri. He materialised on another world, filled with monsters, fabulous marvels and non-stop peril for which brains, not brawn, were the only solution. 

Witty, sophisticated, gloriously illustrated and fantastically imaginative: and there was always the woman named Alanna, beautiful, brilliant and not so much unattainable as frequently out-of-reach. The star-parted lovers happy-ever-after was always just in reach, but only after one more adventure… 

Pristine paragon of the latter age of “thinking man’s heroes”, Strange was an interplanetary ambassador who was very much of his era. However, as his elegant adventures gave way to a superhero avalanche, the creative dream team of Gardner F. Fox, Carmine Infantino, Murphy Anderson, (latterly aided and abetted by Sid Greene, and Joe Giella) were called away for more urgent creations elsewhere. From Mystery in Space #92 (June 1964) Editor Jack Schiff supervised Adam’s exploits until his final appearance in #102 (September 1965). Space Ranger had joined the book’s line-up with Adam and Allana’s last forays crafted by Dave Wood, Fox, Jerry Siegel, Lee Elias and Dick Dillin, until they were ousted by incoming experiment Ultra, the Multi-Alien… 

This third and final hardback outing gathers the last vestiges of that Silver Age excellence – comprising Mystery in Space #81-91, plus a team-up from Hawkman #18 and a pertinent short story from Strange Adventures #157. 

Jim Starlin’s introduction ‘Adam Strange: The Coolest Dude Around’ is followed by a barrage of delights from Fox, Infantino & Anderson, beginning with MIS #81 and testing our hero to his limits as the dictator who caused Rann’s nuclear armageddon returns after 1000 years to threaten both Adam’s homeworlds in ‘The Cloud-Creature that Menaced Two Worlds!’  

Then a terrestrial criminal’s scheme to conquer Earth is thwarted as a result of Adam ending a ‘World War on Earth – and Rann!’ whilst #83 pits the Star man  against a desperate ‘Emotion Master of Space!’ before relentless Dust-Devil Jakarta returns, shrugging off ‘The Powerless Weapons of Adam Strange!’ (inked by Joe Giella). Triumphing anyway, strange and Alanna are almost annihilated by the ‘Riddle of the Runaway Rockets!’ which sees a revived primordial robot rampage under the vivid veridian skies before ‘Attack of the Underworld Giants!’ (inked by John Giunta) foreshadows big changes to come via a fantastic vision… 

An intriguing diversion from sci fi sister publication Strange Adventures #157 follows. ‘Rescue by Moonlight!’ (Fox, Infantino Giunta & Anderson) is a Space Museum yarn (anthological done-in-one tales centred around Earth’s official interstellar knowledge repository) wherein 25th century descendent Alan Strange foils the theft of exotic mineral “parastil”. 

Mystery in Space had starred Strange since #53, but with #87 (November 1963) Schwartz capitulated to and capitalized on the growing superhero boom: adding Hawkman (and Hawkgirl!) in a back-up slot that included full cover-privileges. Not included here, initial yarn ‘The Amazing Thefts of the I.Q. Gang! subtly impacted our hero’s lead tale as ‘The Super-Brain of Adam Strange!’ (with Sid Greene as final regular inker) sees the Earthman hyper-evolved by Zeta-radiation and an unlikely menace to all… 

An ethereal do-gooder goes astray as ‘The Robot-Wraith of Rann!’ and Adam proves irresistible to the ‘Siren of the Space Ark!’ before Infantino & Anderson reunited for Fox’s extra-length length End-of the-World(s) epic ‘Planets in Peril!’ in #90 but after teaming Adam and the Hawks to save two worlds, the glory days concluded quietly with ‘Puzzle of the Perilous Prisons!’ (MIS #91, May 1964), offering a return engagement with archfoe Mortan and a nasty case of evil duplicate girlfriend…  

Strange’s later divergent direction was ignored by Fox & Anderson in early 1967 when Hawkman #18 saw the Winged Wonder join Strange against malevolent Manhawks to locate the ‘World That Vanished!’ The planet in question was Thanagar and when it went, it took Hawkman’s beloved wife  Shayera with it… 

This volume concludes with biographies of the creators, but not sadly the conclusion of that fable as Adam wasn’t in it. If you hate to be kept hanging you’ll need to find a different reprint edition carrying that… 

Available in a monumental omnibus edition, but not in any format ordinary earthlings can lift or afford, these tales are desperately in need of a digital age refit. 
© 1963, 1964, 1967, 2008 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.