The Strange Talent Of Luther Strode – 2015 Weekly Writer Challenge: Justin Jordan (Part 1)
52 weeks. 52 different writers. 2 trade paperbacks or hardcovers a week. Each week I’ll take a look at a different writer and read two different collected editions from within that person’s repertoire to help in the examination of their work.
Did you know if you google “Justin Jordan” for some info the first thing that comes up is another Justin Jordan who just so happens to be Michael Jordan’s nephew? Neither did I until today, which is pretty cool because who doesn’t love Jordan and the Bulls? Anyways, back to the Justin Jordan who writes comics. Justin was nominated for a Harvey Award back in 2012 for “Most Promising New Talent” and is perhaps most well-known for his contributions to DC Comics during their New 52 relaunch, working on titles like Deathstroke, Team 7, Superboy, and Green Lantern: New Guardians. None of that really matters though because he is way more well-known for writing today’s crazy, hyper violent, and all around awesome series, “The Strange Talent Of Luther Strode”.
The Strange Talent Of Luther Strode
Luther Strode is your average high school student, with an affinity for comics, video games, and other staples of “nerd culture”. A scrawny kid who is constantly getting bullied, Luther decides that he’s had enough and gets a book mailed out to him that will help him increase his strength, spirit, and mind. Luther gains exceptional skills seemingly overnight like heightened strength, speed, and durability just to name a few. The book has turned him quite literally into a man of exceptional and unrealized power. As Luther learns more about his powers he turns to vigilantism to try to use his powers for good, even though his raw strength is a dangerous thing. Meanwhile, an equally capable and dangerous man named the Librarian begins to gruesomely murder citizens of Luther’s town, tearing a path towards an inevitable clash with Luther. Little does Luther know that the Librarian has a tight tie to his own powers and seeks him out for unusual reasons. Luther’s life quickly shifts to him using his powers to try to defeat the Librarian whilst also protecting the ones he loves most.
On the surface, Justin Jordan’s “The Strange Talent Of Luther Strode” shares a lot of similarities with Mark Millar’s “Kick-Ass”, but rest assured that in the end both stories end up being wildly different, with Luther Strode straddling the line of the over-the-top comic book world far more proudly. In some regards, I’d go as far as saying that “The Strange Talent Of Luther Strode” is “Kick-Ass” on bath salts with superpowers and tons of hyper violence. The crazy, hyper violent nature of the series is classic Justin Jordan as that man loves to do insanely bloody stories that are less serious and more ridiculous than your average comic. To put things into perspective, you get scenes where men get their faces ripped off, severed arms shoved down their throats, and….well honestly some of this is just better seen than read as it’s part of what makes Luther Strode a ridiculously fun story to follow along with.
One of the biggest blessing and curses that Strange Talent deals with is how incredibly cliché it ends up being. The plot feels derivative of tales done before, with just about every major story beat being predictable. Everything feels telegraphed, save for maybe two to three moments that play out in a way different from what you expected and thus they surprise you. I guess that’s where the triumph occurs with Strange Talent, in that it becomes so easy to guess what will happen that, in the rare instances where the story swerves, you are genuinely surprised. Even with the story being fairly straight forward and predictable, there’s still fun to be had. Jordan scripts out a fast, hyper violent pace that makes things fun for you as a reader, causing you to be more forgiving in instances when you know exactly what will happen. In placing this hyper violence into the story, Jordan actually fools around with the superhero genre a bit more than what you’d expect. This is still a different style of take on your average superhero story as Luther isn’t your average hero, Librarian isn’t your average villain, and all around your supporting characters are just different from your average superhero story. Everything seems to bust out in fast forward, as all the events of the stories just read so quickly and fluidly that you’ll rip through this story in one sitting with ease. The fast pace keeps you from growing bored with the plot, with the craziness of what’s happening around these characters doing nothing if not complimenting the pace perfectly. As such, even though you can see things coming a mile away, by the time you reach the final two to three pages of this series you can still walk away being thoroughly entertained and even slightly surprised by the way things shook down.
With my primary criticism of the plot being its predictability, it’s unsurprising that the same pitfalls occurs in the character department as well unfortunately. Even still, Justin Jordan has a handful of main players in this story and for the most part all of the characters he has available to him are fun characters to read about. Luther Strode is the hero of the story, going from scrawny geek to buff, physical powerhouse over the course of six fast issues. He’s a character that starts out with a selfish motivation to better himself and remains quite selfish, although likable for all of the story. Luther becomes a character constantly reacting to everything that’s happening around him, making him a “weak” character by writing standards but one who you still can’t help but like. He has a charm and wit to him that makes you cheer for him even though he lacks clear, unselfish motivations for almost all of the story. His best friend, Pete, is the comedic backbone of the series, grounding out the cast and providing plenty of hilarity along the way. Although he isn’t integral to the overall narrative, he’s still a character that this story would sorely miss if he wasn’t present at all. The comedic timing of the character helps to push the quick pace of the story, constantly keeping the ball rolling with forward momentum. Petra is Luther’s love interest who is definitely the furthest thing from a shy girl. She aggressively pursues a romantic relationship with Luther, much to his delight, and is yet again another addition to the cast who isn’t overly important but still necessary for the feel of the series in this volume. She’s got a past with a big question mark beside it, something that doesn’t get fleshed out as cleanly as it should, leaving much more to be implied than resolved. Luther’s mother also becomes a fairly important character in the story, being there to primarily shine light on Luther’s past and give you a reason to feel a bit of heartbreak towards the lead character. Even with that in mind, her inclusion is still fairly flat and doesn’t do much for the story until much later on.
As far as antagonists go, Justin Jordan introduces the readers to a single primary villain with hints towards much more in the works. The Librarian is a well-kept gentleman who is built like an ox and comes off as a polite powerhouse. He’s a man tightly tied to Luther’s new powers and comes off as quite the psychopath when you peel back the layers of the character. Although he isn’t anything special, the Librarian is still an important “first test” for Luther on his path towards becoming a “hero”, serving to be an appropriate challenge who pushes Luther physically, emotionally, and mentally in ways that he hasn’t been pushed since gaining said powers. There appears to also be some form of organization working behind the Librarian, pushing some form of mysterious and unspoken agenda. If nothing else, this group supports the fact that Justin Jordan clearly has a long game in place for the future of the series beyond this first volume.
Collects: The Strange Talent Of Luther Strode #1-6
Best Character: Luther Strode
Best Line Of Dialogue/Caption: “My name is Luther Strode, and I have talents. I know the secrets now. I know what is inside.” – Luther Strode
Best Scene/Moment: The Luther and Librarian showdown – Issue 6
Best Issue: Issue 2. I’m going to go with issue 2 because this is where we see Luther really starting to develop with his new-found “powers”. There’s plenty of hilarious moments in this issue that stays consistent with the lighter first half of this volume before it inevitably switches to some darker subject matter during the second half. We watch as Luther deals with the high school bully a bit more and get our first glimpse at him using his powers to commit a deed that is actually good. It’s fast paced, highly enjoyable, and there’s a bit of hyper violence sprinkled in for good measure.
Why You Should Read It: You should read this if you just want a fast paced, fun, and hyper violent comic. The Strange Talent Of Luther Strode is so ridiculous that you can’t deny the enjoyment you’ll find it in. It’s a superhero story without any restraints, showcasing the steps someone would take when given that power to do good. Justin Jordan theorizes that just because you get powers doesn’t mean it’s easy to do the right thing. As he states in the foreword to this volume “Have you really helped or made things worse?”, and that seems like a fitting question to ask after reading this first volume in the series. No, this comic isn’t a deep philosophical examination of a hero who gets powers he doesn’t know how to control too quickly. It’s something that’s touched on but for the most part “The Strange Talent…” is just rip-roaring fun and highly violent. If nothing else, it’s sure to scratch the itch of any comic fan who wants a light read with tons of action, laughs, and plenty of bloody nonsense.