LegacyofLutherStrode_01-1By Molly Jane Kremer. It’s been a year and eight months since we’ve had any new Luther Strode, and I have to admit, the wait was wearing on me.

While we’ve been able to see writer Justin Jordan on a bunch of other great creator-owned titles (the already-optioned Deep State, Spread, and Dead Body Road are just a few), and artist Tradd Moore on Marvel’s incredible All-New Ghost Rider, there’s still an extra, unmistakable rawness and energy to the duo’s work when they’re together. It’s gratifying to see that this week’s The Legacy of Luther Strode continues that tradition of gory, action-filled excellence, even if this issue is the beginning to our last glimpse of it.

The Strange Talent of Luther Strode put both Jordan and Moore on the map in a big way back in 2011, part of that first wave of the new Image renaissance (way back before even Saga had seen publication). While at first glance it didn’t seem like the most innovative pitch  — nerdy high schooler tries out the strong man ad in a comic book, turns nigh-superhuman — it was in actuality a visually groundbreaking, better (and uninsulting) version of Kick-Ass, and it (rightfully) sold like crazy. Enough to merit a couple of sequels, at least.

Jordan has emphasized the finality of this volume, and while the possibility of more spin-offs within the Lutherverse exists, the fact that this is the last story about these characters ups the stakes dramatically. Not knowing if certain characters will make it out alive makes for a tense and suspenseful read, often a difficult balance with a book stuffed this full of fightin’. Making the reader care that much about characters isn’t exactly typical in the action genre — especially for female characters like Petra, who has evolved into quite the Sarah Connor-esque action heroine herself — but Jordan has given everyone such empathic and interesting personalities that you really don’t want to see any of them go.

Luther02-cb483The relationship between Luther and Petra is really the backbone of the series, and Jordan has made them incredibly compelling. There’s a wonderfully sweet dichotomy found in Luther; he’s a character who is drawn to look like he can easily rip out your spine (and we’ve been shown that he indeed can), but he is simultaneously so sincere, quiet and thoughtful. Pairing him with Petra, a person who is at once one-third his size, hot-headed, and sailor-mouthed, creates the makings for the perfect couple.

Jordan is building a substantive fictional world here, with a few pages at the beginning (sort of a pro-prologue before “The Bridge”) featuring the legend of the biblical hero Sampson. The panels between him and Delilah are some of the sexiest I’ve seen in a while — psychedelic vaginal imagery was not something I was expecting to see in this book, but it’s effective and it looks great — and some full-frontal male nudity helps earn that “Mature” rating. (Not that the massive proliferation of strewn intestines and spattered brain matter wouldn’t have accomplished that already.)

Tradd Moore’s art can only be described as kinetic (and, honestly, I can’t think of another artist today who incorporates as much movement into their work as he does, or who does it anywhere near so goddamned well). His cartoonishly over-the-top violence is detailed without being overly-rendered, and his clean, precise inks are nothing less than marvelous. The impressive layouts and and keen sense of perspective reveal a storytelling proficiency that belies his 27 years. Speed lines, bullet traces, ghosted fights, and literal sparks of motion abound — assisted incredibly by color artist Felipe Sobreiro — and they would be cheesy as hell in anyone else’s hands. But Moore incorporates all of them for a fluid and rampaging monster of a fight (and chase) scene that takes up almost half of the book’s forty pages, done so well that you’ll wish it went on for twenty more.

Luther06-16866Felipe Sobreiro’s colors are equally stunning in “The Bridge”, the 8-page pseudo-prologue that bridges (clever one, guys) events in The Legend of Luther Strode to this new series. It’s primary-colored mayhem, with bright crimson-red swathes of blood standing out against the cool blues that dominate the pages’ background, combine with occasional yellows of gunfire and swift movement. His colors throughout the book emphasize both the dynamics in Moore’s pencils and inks, and the stylistically exaggerated bedlam this comic is full of.

Like many an Image #1, this issue is oversized (and underpriced), with 40 ad-free pages, and is 80% violent batshit-insanity and 20% heartfelt lovestory. Fast-paced, funny and pretty goddamn brutal, The Legacy of Luther Strode builds on an already solid foundation established over the last four years by creators truly at the top of their game, on a book completely suited to their singular strengths. This might be the last comic series featuring the eponymous Mr. Strode, but if this first issue is any tell, it’s gonna be one to remember.

Image Comics/$2.99

Written by Justin Jordan.

Art by Tradd Moore.

Colors by Felipe Sobreiro.

9.5 out of 10