Judging by the very first page of the very first issue of Image‘s Strangers, all super-powered women MUST be enormously endowed, even if they are former NASA scientists. The utter ridiculousness of this title does not even begin to stop there.
Strangers has its roots back in France, circa 1950, where from there it went strong for just about 30 years. French censorship problems, as well as a refocusing of SEMIC, the company that acquired the original publisher of Strangers, Editions Lug in the mid-1980s, lead to the halt of new stories in the “Strangers“ universe. In 2001, an editorial team lead by Thierry Mornet began work on a new version of Strangers, to be released in France, as well as the United States by Image.
The key character in Strangers is Homicron, a former NASA scientist by the name of Rita Tower, who shares her body with a powerful energy being, which grants her cosmic powers. This alien formerly inhabited the body of her boyfriend, Ted White, who transferred Homicron to her upon his death. She is joined by Starlock, who controls his own gravity field; Futura, a mysterious alien who can teleport herself, and possesses other unknown abilities; Jaleb, a telepath; and Jaydee, the last member of a dead species, a vicious fighter. All five are called Strangers, as they are aliens (or in part alien), and are separate from the Earth’s time-continuum. I never did figure out what the significance of that was.
The Story So Far
Issue #1 opens with a shot of HOMICRON! pondering her existence, when she stumbles upon the fugitive Starlock. He agrees to help her defend “Project Samael,” which is a space station in orbit of Earth. The space station has the task of collecting all of the Weapons of Mass Destruction on Earth, and launching them into the sun to destroy them.
The space station is then attacked by an army of “killer robots” lead by a man named Astaroth. He conquers the station (defeating its super-powered protectors with suspicious ease) and explains his evil plot (as all evil geniuses do when the heroes are safely trapped) to threaten the Earth with the stockpile of WMDs, in order to “get what he wants.” Futura breaks out of his supposedly impervious power dampening devices, frees the other heroes, and they then proceed to defeat Astaroth and his robots. In the aftermath, they discover a small spider-like control chip on Astaroth, which leads the Strangers to believe he was in the thrall of Tarantula, the leader of S.P.I.D.E.R., or “Society for the Pollution, Infestation, and Destruction of Energies and Resources.”
This title is likely one of the most confusing comic books I have ever read. Not only did I feel like I was coming in on the 300th issue of a comic, the writing style was difficult to follow, the art ridiculous, and the translation from French was noticeably flawed.
First off, the dialogue is extremely reminiscent of a much older time in comics- not very sophisticated. While this might be fun (I am very much a fan of “old school”), the plot is far to complex and cluttered for this to work. Instead, the story appears confusing, and heroes and villains alike seem like nothing more than bumbling idiots. Every other page has at least one character declaring something in dramatic fashion- I think I saw “The Power of HOMICRON!!” at least four times in the first issue alone. There are numerous cut-aways to different settings, where two or three pages are spent talking about a totally unrelated event with completely unfamiliar characters, who contribute nothing to any part of the main plot. It demonstrates a total lack of structure on the part of the writer. From what I could glean from the issues, there is a good story in there, but it is told in such a ridiculously poor manner that no amount of patience will make it worth the wait.
The story itself is ludicrous. Astaroth has the power to absorb the powers and energies of anyone who touches him. Now, am I supposed to believe that one of the heroes, who knows all about Astaroth, could be tricked into punching him, simply because Astaroth pleads “No! Don’t touch me! I can’t stand to be touched!”?
The translation problems also hurt the story. An all too obvious pun by Homicron: “I’m tired of you busting my nutsacks!” not only ruins any punch the “I used to be a man, so I say things a man would say” pun, but it comes off as totally juvenile. (I am, however, curious as to how the comic is in the original French, if any readers out there from France would be kind enough to get me a copy!! )
The characters themselves are cliche’ – Futura, who is am immensely powerful being, demonstrates a perfect understanding of English, yet cannot comprehend simple words like “dark,” and “color,” which makes you wonder how exactly she is supposed to interact at all with the very people she is supposed to protect. The women are also ridiculously endowed and either virtually naked or in a tighter-than-possible cat-suits (more-so than usual), while the men are strangely normal looking and fully clothed at all times. This is not unusual in American comics, but Strangers takes this to an impossible extreme.
Long story short- if this title is supposed to spearhead a “SEMIC Invasion” of French comic titles, it is a very poor beachhead, and I am left completely disinterested in other French titles. If I want a good French comic, I will stick to Asterix.
Leave Strangers on the shelf. It is not worth it. If you are feeling masochistic #1 and #2 are available now, with issue #3 due out May 28th.