Unlike most comic books I have read, Tom Strong – and in this deluxe edition issues one to 12 are collected – is marked by two differences: first, while there is a main story arc in the beginning, which explains the origins and backstory of the protagonist Tom Strong as well as his initial encounters in Millennium City, the plot is straightforward and often predictable (in fact, the issues can be read on their own); and second as an extension, each episode is fast-paced and distinct from one another, and in addition the two main antagonists Paul Saveen and Ingrid Weiss do not always feature.
Each issue is based in dissimilar settings and time-periods or dimensions too, through the use of newfangled technologies like computer programmes, archeological sites, and even a “searchboard”. Episodes still centre around Strong and his family – and their exploits in Millennium City – but these technologies allow for this diversity of encounters.
Moreover, against these backgrounds, the stories are characterised by some corresponding socio-political themes. For instance the child Timmy Turbo – featured in the first issue (which also introduced Strong in an interesting manner, wherein Turbo was too engrossed in a comic book about Strong to notice that the latter was engaged in a fight around the cable-car the former was on – has a starring role in issue eight, when he and The Strongmen of America are trapped in a school with robotic teachers enforcing strict discipline and antiquated teaching methods, such as rote memorisation. In addition historical references to the Earth’s solitary continent, The Pangaea, made for a fascinating storyline.
Because of the general predictability of Tom Strong, I thought the arc involving Strong and Weiss to be most engaging. Issue four – when Strong meets Weiss and her Nazi counterparts in Berlin, set in 1945, for the first time – ends on a strange note (since nothing appears to have happened to the protagonist after his capture), yet when they meet again the twist is quite something. On this note the resolution of the climax did not match the surprise element, in my opinion, though one could argue that it matches the overall sense of simplicity.
References – to other comic series, literature, or popular culture – are perhaps made in each issue, and while I did not necessarily understand all of them, Tom Strong still makes for an easy and enjoyable read.