Review: Strongman by Charles Soule and Allan Gladfelter

StrongmanStrongman by Allan Gladfelter

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Not the strongest independent work I’ve read from a writer who’s being hailed as a new champion of comics – or at least, certainly not to my tastes. Which is weird because it’s a simple tale and shallow enough in its ambitions that I should be right there alongside. Maybe it was the oddly squeaky morality (despite some slightly adultish subject matter)?

It was a chore wading through the setup sequences. I can see Soule wanting to emulate the genre, and show the characters at their height – desperately wanting to give us his rendition of Mexican wrestling heroes. And he’s working just as hard to show is in all the clichéd details exactly how far our hero has slid from his prime. And then how easily manipulated he is by a woman in need. Mmm-Kay. Oh wait, and he’s an honourable fallen hero. Narcoleptic Christ help me.

Bo-ring! I could throw on any B-movie from Netflix anytime if I wanted a dose of by-the-numbers storytelling. Hell, I would fire up any second-rate channel and look for some Canadian syndicated sci-fi. Stargate? Lex? I’d even settle for one of the million Law & Order episodes.

In reading works by a celebrated newcomer, I’m looking for something original, at least the start of something worth pulling off the shelf.

Even when the story takes a dramatic turn, it feels like a story on rails – little deviation from the formula, still with the stiff pompous dialogue – everyone doing the formal monologues like a bad high school play (my brother was a theatre major so I’ve seen my fair share next to his work).

Even in tragedy I feel like I’m going along for a ride in a run-down carnival – like one of those mechanical haunted houses where the skeleton pops out of a rusty door and cackles from a scratchy analog recording – all done a thousand times, feels like every other “thrill” being foisted upon sad desperate kids across the planet.

In fact, this story would get a lot better if some gang of carnies got teamed up with the hero – trash-talking, hard-living biker dudes who don’t play by the formula. Have them roll into town, meet up with their old nemesis Tigre and through unexpected circumstances they grudgingly agree to throw on luchador masks and take a set of bicycle chains to the villains.

Ends about as well as I’d expect from this – not great, but decently. I would’ve preferred a tragic ending or something really morose, but alas that is not the tale Soule wanted to tell.

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SPOILER AHEAD
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Update: Sam’s right – on second glance the border design makes a good case that this ending is poetic license as Strongman shuffles off the mortal coil. Better.

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SPOILER BEHIND
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Art? Sure, the art is good – prolly better than the writing deserved. A bit old-school, but does a good job supporting and fleshing out the story, the action, and even the timeline changes.

BTW, my luchador name is Tornado Violente. Be careful who you piss off.

Taz

View all my reviews

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