Adam Strange’s war crimes against the Pykkt are now out in the open, but Alanna has seemingly flipped the script the Justice League had written. With the American populace under the belief that the two are best fit to combat the Pykkt due to the wanton killing of their people, the two are seen as Earth’s last hope against the alien menace. However, things are not adding up. Mister Terrific sees the holes in the story Adam Strange is telling to both Rann and Earth. Is there something larger that Strange is hiding? The answer to that question leads to what may be the best issue of the entire series. In order to discuss what makes this issue possibly the best writer Tom King has ever written, I must discuss the revelation and what it means for the story going forward. Thus, spoilers ahead for the tenth issue of Strange Adventures. If you haven’t read the issue yet, please go to your nearest comic book store or purchase it digitally from the link at the end of this review. You don’t want to miss this.
This issue begins with Adam Strange detailing their plan of attack to Rann’s army. With both them and the Pyykt forces wounded and deprived of necessary resources, they can either wait a few months for both sides to recuperate at risk of the Pykkt becoming stronger than them, or they can launch an attack now at risk of losing what little they have left. In Doc Shaner’s telling of the past through his artwork, we see the quick and easy defeat of the Pykkt, and the war crimes Strange commits against them. This seemingly serves as further proof of Adam Strange’s horrid actions the Justice League had announced to the world in the present. It seems Adam Strange wanted the genocide of the Pykkt people occupying Rann.
However, in the present, Mister Terrific has found quite a few inconsistencies in the story Adam Strange has told to the world. First, the Pykkt appear to be merciless in the early days of the war, making short work of Rann’s defenses despite the alliance Adam Strange built among the peoples of Rann, so why are they easily defeated later? Further more, why do they choose to hold Adam, Rann’s greatest warrior, hostage instead of removing him from the battlefield permanently? Instead they allow him to walk back to his family, so that his plight against the Pykkt can continue. Adam, in his telling, makes it seem like he escaped, but with how strong the Pykkt were, that situation seems unlikely even for him.
Secondly, if the Pykkt were so easily defeated on Rann, why do they pose such a threat towards Earth. Earth, and the Justice League by proxy, have faced countless world-threatening calamities. They’ve fought back alien invaders hundreds of times. Rann, by comparison, had never faced anything like the Pykkt before and were able to defend themselves despite that. However, when the Pykkt come to Earth, they are a threat Earth had never seen the like of before. One of Earth’s smartest tacticians, Batman, was easily outsmarted by the Pykkt, something that should also not be possible by Mister Terrific’s assessment.
Lastly, every time Adam mentions his daughter’s death at the hands of the Pykkt, it appears to be used as a deflection from his atrocious acts; a way to get the people of Earth to sympathize and rally behind him. Terrific believes that it was used in a similar way to excuse such actions on Rann in the past. Terrific knows what it feels like to lose a daughter, and notices that Adam is playing to the emotions of his readers, not truly showing his own. This is made more clear by his use of Psalm 31 of the Bible within the text. Psalm 31 discusses one’s own guilt for their actions, not the grief Adam sugarcoats it with in his book.
From these three holes in Adam and Alanna’s story, Mister Terrific realizes that Adam’s war crimes, his immense hate for the Pykkt people, and the death of his daughter at the hands of the enemy were all fabricated to hide a bigger secret: Adam Strange would help hand Earth over to the Pykkt in exchange for a Rannian victory. The Pykkt then took Aleea hostage to force Adam to keep his part of the bargain. Strange fabricates his daughter’s death to explain away the war crimes, allowing the people of both Rann and Earth to rally behind him and buy his story. Adam Strange lied to everyone, including his wife, to secure Rann’s freedom from the Pykkt and doom Earth.
Why would Adam give up Earth to the Pykkt? Why not some other known inhabited planet that he has no attachment to? In the early days of the war, when Adam knew their forces were not strong enough to defeat the Pykkt, he went to the Justice League for aid. He even asked Superman personally to help. They all declined, leaving Rann to fend for itself and potentially be annihilated by their invaders. Adam would naturally hold a grudge against them for their decision to abstain from the conflict. Every piece comes together perfectly with the revelations made in this issue.
The happiness Alanna demonstrates throughout Gerads’ artwork, the belief she has for Adam’s cause and the love she holds for him, are quickly drained from her face in the last two pages upon reading Mister Terrific’s message to her. I am dreadfully awaiting her conversation with Adam about the letter in the next issue. Every page from Gerads before was caked in a warmth. However, the panels showcasing Alanna dealing with the information she has received are hit by a blue background, with sadness soaking into the panels. That sadness seemingly turns into anger, with red overtaking the last two panels as Adam begins speaking to Alanna about Terrific’s letter. Gerads tense use of color once again contrasts with the classic sci-fi pulp feel Shaner brings with his artwork, despite the grimness of the subject matter. As amazing as King’s writing is, it would be nothing without these two giving shape to the story.
This is easily the most important issue of the series so far, with Alanna being forced to come to terms with the knowledge Mister Terrific has given her. After her talk with Adam, will she tell the world his secret? With only two issues remaining, the climax of Strange Adventures is upon us, and it appears that it will be an emotional one. I, personally, cannot wait.