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Comic Book / Strange Adventures (2020)

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"Our lives are our stories. Little fictions we tell our friends and our lovers and ourselves. And we spend every moment we have praying to God we can find... that no one ever discovers we made all that #$#@ up."

Strange Adventures is a 12-issue miniseries by Tom King (Batman (Tom King), Mister Miracle (2017)), Mitch Gerads, and Evan "Doc" Shaner as a part of the DC Black Label imprint. While King and Gerads' previous collaboration focused on the New Gods, this is a look into another one of DC's space heroes: Adam Strange.

Adam Strange is a man of two worlds: Earth and the alien planet Rann.

With the constant conundrum of being warped back and forth between the two planets due to the fickle Zeta-Beam and most recently partaking in an alien war on Rann with the Pykkts, the life of Adam is hardly one of dull moments...or so it was.

Adam has recently retired to Earth with his beloved wife Alanna, where he has written a memoir of his escapades on Rann and is on tour to promote it while signing copies. But the good times come to a screeching halt when a man angrily confronts Adam over what happened on Rann. To make matters worse, that same man is later found murdered not long after by a space gun.

For sure, Adam is positive he didn't kill the man. But it still begs the question: if he didn't pull the trigger, who did? Exactly what happened on Rann? Is Adam Strange a war hero or a war criminal?

Only Mister Terrific can figure out the truth...but what he finds out may hit more than a few nerves with Adam and Alanna.

Strange Tropes:

  • Adaptational Jerkass: Played with regarding Alanna. The flashbacks have her behaving like previous appearances of the character, while the present day segments have her smoking and threatening the other heroes behind Adam's back.
  • Adaptational Villainy: Adam Strange himself, the heroic space-opera protagonist though brutal desperation becomes a war-criminal who sold out the Earth to save Rann and his family.
  • Always Chaotic Evil: Alanna and the rest of Rann at large frame the Pykkts as these, being a warmongering horde of alien invaders seeking to either conquer or leave "holocaust conditions" in their wake. Just how reliable a claim that is is part of why Mister Terrific investigates Adam's history with them so thoroughly. Turns out that even though he unearths Adam doing terrible things to them, the Pykkts really are as bad as they're made out to be. The sole bits of pathos they get are a Pykkt captive ranting about Adam massacring Pykkt women and children, with later scenes verifying him doing things like gassing unarmed Pykkts and executing surrendered soldiers, yet there's nothing to directly dispel the atrocities the Pykkts themselves have committed (including their own world-spanning genocides to torturing Adam for months), and it's left open to suggest that maybe Adam's crimes really were justified retribution.
  • Arc Words: Adam is frequently described of "The Man of Two Worlds" — a sobriquet the character has occasionally used in the past, with this series diving headfirst into what that means for him in terms of his allegiances.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: Issue 6 ends with Mr. Terrific asking one to Alanna. It causes her to stammer:
    Mr. Terrific: Let me ask you: after Adam returned, gave you the news... Where'd you bury your daughter's body?
    Alanna: What? I... There wasn't a body. She was... The Pykkts are... There was no body. We put up a...just a small...monument.
  • Art Shift: The book switches between art styles frequently. Scenes occurring on Earth are drawn by Mitch Gerads while scenes on Rann are by Evan "Doc" Shaner. This also extends to the covers, which have Doc Shaner doing fantastical covers and Gerads doing gritty ones. Issue 10's last flashback panel has the color fading away to symbolize the illusion falling apart.
  • Asshole Victim: A guy screams at Adam for his actions on Rann...and gets his head blown away.
  • As the Good Book Says...: Adam's memoir contains a dedication to his late daughter, including a line which Michael traces back to Psalm 31. This ends up shockingly important, as the passage is not about grief, loss, or even death, but shame and guilt. Combined with all the other factors in Michael's investigation, he realizes it was Adam confessing that his daughter was alive after all, and he arranged the deal to fake her death.
  • Beard of Sorrow: Throughout the timespan of the series, Adam has managed to grown a couple of beards of hardship. He first grew one during his solo trek across the deserts of Rann in search of the Hellotaats, with the "sorrow" subtext kicking in following Adam getting ported back to Earth mid-battle, spending an extended leave struggling to find help in returning to Rann ASAP. He doesn't end up shaving until at least a month later once he unites with the rock people. He proceeds to develop a second one as the war kicks into full gear, getting especially shaggy as he's imprisoned for months and regularly subjected to Cold-Blooded Torture, and it's not shaven until the war on Rann finally wanes.
  • Being Tortured Makes You Evil: Maybe not evil (maybe), but being tortured by the Pykkts is when Adam switches from fighting against the Pykkts to committing war crimes against them. Though it apparently does make him think it's a great idea to haggle with them and use his own daughter as a bargaining chip.
  • Bitch Slap: Issue 4 has Sardath giving one to Mr. Terrific when the latter asks where Aleea Strange is. Mr. Terrific responds with a slap hard enough to knock Sardath onto the floor. Issue 11 shows Alanna slapping Adam around when he dodges her question about where's Aleea. Like father, like daughter?
  • Bittersweet Ending: Humanity repels the Pykkts and Alanna and Mr. Terrific rescue Aleea, with Alanna preparing to return to Rann to help prepare for the Pykkts inevitable revenge while leaving her daughter in Michael's safe care on Earth. Adam Strange is dead; a tragic, desperate man who was broken through fighting a brutal war, ultimately betraying the Earth to save his adopted family and world, leaving him responsible for countless deaths amongst other crimes. Alanna ruminates that she now must live with all the blood-soaked wrong she helped her broken husband commit out of unaware love, the image and story she had of him and herself entirely destroyed.
  • Black-and-Grey Morality: Being a darkening of Adam Strange's mythos, this is the dynamic between the Pykkts and Adam himself. The Pykkts are played pretty unambiguously as a cruel, warmongering empire of alien invaders, but Adam is much more ruthless than usual in defending Rann and Earth, committing war crimes in a mixture of broken desperation and personal catharsis after suffering months of Cold-Blooded Torture by the Pykkts' hand.
  • Bold Inflation: The bright Space Opera portions of the story (illustrated by Doc Shaner) features characters speaking in a campy and dramatic cadence with a lot of bolded words. Meanwhile, the realistic, grounded half (by Mitch Gerads) features none, and everyone speaks in a casual, more natural flow.
  • Bonding over Missing Parents: Partly Inverted; in issue #6, Alanna and Michael develop a closer understanding by discussing their lost family, namely Alanna's daughter and Michael's wife and unborn child. This dynamic carries with them to the end of the series, where Alanna directly compares the messy, heavily-compromised tragedy surrounding Aleea's "death" to the story of Michael's family — Alanna will have to pick up the consequences that must be faced from Adam's actions, yet she finds beauty in the straightforward, honest nature of Michael recovering from his tragedy.
  • Book Ends:
    • The very first panel of the series features Adam (drawn in Gerads' realistic, gritty art style) at a book signing, happily introducing himself to a reader. At the very end of issue #1, he's happily introducing himself to Mister Terrific in the same way. In the much longer term, the final panel of issue #12 flashes back to Adam once again introducing himself at the book signing, but this time drawn in Shaner's clean, colorful art style.
    • This also extends to the Gerads and Shaner covers for the first and last issues.
      • Issue 1's Shaner cover has a proud Adam in front of a space utopia. Issue 12's Shaner cover has him overlooking a fiery hellhole.
      • Issue 1's Gerads cover has a grim-looking Adam having already been graffitied with claims of "Liar!" and "Stranger Danger". Issue 12's Gerads cover has Adam's portrait being halfway-replaced with one featuring Mister Terrific by Alanna.
  • Boom, Headshot!: The guy that yells at Adam gets his head blown clean off his neck, complete with a large amount of blood on the floor.
  • Break the Cutie: Implied with Aleea. She's depicted in flashbacks as a perfectly happy, ordinary girl who unabashedly loves her parents, but by the time Alanna and Michael figure out she's still alive and rescue her, she's spent years held captive by the Pykkts. She does recognize her mother and falls into her arms for a loving embrace, but her dialogue is far more stilted and she formally asks permission for a hug — whatever happened in those years, she came out the other end visibly changed.
  • Broken Bird: Alanna has become one of these in the present day. In contrast with the chipper, loving, and adventurous self that we see in flashbacks, the retired Alanna is more distant and confrontational, lighting up a cigarette in almost every other appearance, and it's all but directly stated to have been tied to Aleea's death back at Rann. Even when she eventually learns that her daughter is alive and rescues her, Alanna still ends with plenty of other problems to angst over.
  • Bullet Holes and Revelations: Adam and Alanna's gun struggle in Issue 11 has the laser gun going off. We don't see the shot...but we quickly see Adam lying on his back with a bloody midsection.
  • The Bus Came Back: While several alien races like the Pykkt and Hellotaat are original creations made for this book, several other aliens actually date to the very original run of Adam Strange titles by Gardner Fox and Carmine Infantino. Doc Shaner confirmed that the rock people are in fact the Undergrounders from Mystery in Space, Adam's torturer is a Zorra, and the Kirri people are also reintroduced as one of Adam's ally factions.
  • Can't Kill You, Still Need You: Michael correctly deduces that the reason the Pykkts decided to capture and torture Adam rather than simply kill him on the spot was because they wanted to make a deal with him. Killing Adam would've realistically ensured their victory over Rann as his leadership was what was keeping the planet together, but doing this would get in the way of their prospects of an even bigger fish to fry: Earth.
  • Cavalry Refusal: Issue 4's flashbacks throw Adam in the wringer but HARD. He calls for Hal Jordan AND Superman to give him a ride to Rann. For Hal, it's due to the Guardians of the Universe dictating that the Green Lantern Corps declared neutrality on the Rann-Pykkt war. In Superman's case, it's because Mongul was coming to Earth, and just getting to Rann would leave Earth wide open to Warworld. Needless to say, Adam is more than a little sore about both declinations.
  • Cigarette of Anxiety: Alanna smokes almost all the time in the present-day. It's perhaps yet another example of how different the war with the Pykkts have made her.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: The flashbacks in Issue 7 show what happened to Adam when he was captured by the Pykkts for a few months. Exposed to the Tower of Rainbow Doom, which overcharged his ability to teleport through zeta beams, Adam was teleported to random locations around the universe over and over, with no rest in-between. We see him go inside a volcano, underwater, in the middle of a frozen tundra, and most cruelly back to his family before he's teleported away again. His captor idly mentions that, when he was put through the same process, he was teleported inside an animal's stomach.
  • Comic-Book Fantasy Casting:
    • As Mitch Gerads draws him, Sardath bears a serious resemblance to Sir Patrick Stewart.
    • Gerads portrays Alanna very closely to Olivia Munn. Likewise, Strange bears a strong likeness to Armie Hammer.
    • Similarly, the Rann archivist seen in issue #4 looks very similar to Randall Park.
  • Continuity Nod:
  • Cypher Language: As odd-looking as it is, and as much of a big deal is made on how incomprehensible it is, it turns out the Pykkts' language is one of these.
  • Darker and Edgier: It's a much darker story not just for Adam Strange in general, but even in the sense that Strange Adventures is the spiritual successor to Mister Miracle (2017) (which given how dark that series is relative to its source material, says quite a bit). Adam is played as dealing with the fallout of his spacefaring adventures and the narratives he's leaving behind, and half of the story is played more like a war drama or political thriller than a zany Silver Age Space Opera. King's Mister Miracle series had an ultimately idealistic slant and a pronounced sense of quirky humor, but Strange Adventures is much lighter on comic relief, and is more critical with its deconstructive drama. King himself describes Strange Adventures as a much "angrier", "more caustic" book about not merely surviving mundane evils, but fighting it.
  • Death of a Child: Adam and Alanna's daughter, Aleea. Issue 2 reveals that Adam's book is dedicated to her memory. Except Mister Terrific begs to differ. Issue 10 confirms it was faked and Issue 11 reveals she's in a Pykkt attack cruiser orbiting Mars.
  • Deconstruction: Just like how Tom King and Mitch Gerads' last DC series gave the New Gods a reality check, Strange Adventures doesn't hesitate to show the dark side of Adam Strange's spacefaring escapades, showing behind the image of the hero of an epic space-opera who defended his adopted world from terrible invaders is a desperate, tragic, PTSD-ridden soldier/war-criminal who fought a much murkier war.
  • Decoy Protagonist: The story is definitely about Adam Strange, and he remains active as a major character, but he's not quite the protagonist as the main core of the story is focused on the periphery of his previous actions. In terms of forward motion, Mister Terrific and Alanna end up rotating into the main focus as they unveil more of Strange's adventures, and when Adam is accidentally murdered at the end of issue #11, it's up for the two to pick up the remaining pieces.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: While the angry guy yelling at Adam was not cool, getting his head blown to bits is not exactly an ideal punishment.
  • Dramatic Irony: Issue 5 ends with Adam saying Alanna is enlisting heroes to stand against the Pykkt invasion of Earth and stresses the importance of having everyone on the same page, as it was on Rann. In truth, Alanna is threatening Mr. Terrific, who is most definitely not on the same page as her or Adam.
  • Driving Question: The story in general asks "Exactly what happened on Rann?" Issue 2 asks another one: "If Aleea isn't dead, what happened to her?"
  • Easily Thwarted Alien Invasion:
  • Elseworld: The series is quietly framed as taking place in one of these (similar to most DC Black Label books). Even more so than Mister Miracle (2017), Strange Adventures doesn't neatly fit with any established continuity in The DCU (despite referencing it plenty with appearances of the Justice League), and featuring Adam Strange retiring after a final war with the Pykkts. While the series does end with a degree of continuation for the distant future, it also firmly stakes a definitive ending to Adam's story, though likely not one to be regarded in the DCU canon.
  • Exact Words: Adam tells the last two Pykkt soldiers on Rann that if they surrender peacefully, he and Alanna will not harm them. They do. He didn't say anything about the two Moorm with them, who were quite eager to eat the Pykkts ...
  • Failure Gambit: Michael eventually deduces that the reasons the Pykkts lost on Rann, even after destroying thousands of planets in the past, was that they wanted to "lose". The Pykkt leaders left Adam badly broken, but alive in order to strike a deal where he'd leave Earth open to their invasion, secretly permitting him to commit atrocity after atrocity on their soldiers to make their alliance appear less likely. Ironically, Adam's sudden death means that they no longer have their trump card, and while Alanna deduces that they'll likely just attack Rann again, Earth is no longer vulnerable and on their hitlist... for now.
  • Family Eye Resemblance: Played briefly for heartbreaking symbolism in issue #12: After Alanna and Michael rescue Aleea from captivity from the Pykkts, she goes in for an exhausted, but loving embrace before asking her mother "Where is father?" Her tired, heartbroken grey eyes (drawn by Gerads) are then mirrored to a flashback panel showing Alanna shortly after Aleea's supposed death, sporting the exact same look in her eyes (drawn by Shaner).
  • Femme Fatale: When Adam isn't around, Alanna behaves like one in the present, at least when it comes to Mr. Terrific's investigation on Adam. Issue 4 alone sees her already having broken and entered Mr. Terrific's house as he comes back from Rann, casually. It's a ginormous contrast to how she behaves in the flashbacks...
  • Genre Roulette: Half of the dominating aesthetic of the series is of a pulpy Space Opera — the same type of adventures Adam Strange is usually involved in — but the other half is built like a mystery wrapped in a war story, dealing with the more mundane yet consequence-heavy fallout of said adventures. It's even divided through art (Doc Shaner depicting the space half as vibrant, clean, and colorful, Mitch Gerads the Earth half as a stylized and gritty approach to "realism"), and of writing (the Space Opera half has dramatic dialogue that'd be right at home in a pulp superhero comic, the Earth half featuring diction that's far less polished and more natural).
  • Gilligan Cut: Issue #12 presents a flashback to when Adam first suggested to Alanna they retire to Earth. She agrees, but then snarks about the quality of Earth's air and how she can't even breathe there. Cut to the present day as she's smoking one of her many cigarettes throughout the series.
  • A Glass in the Hand: In issue #9, Michael shatters a beer bottle in his hand upon hearing Alanna's interview where she concedes to her husband's war crimes, but implores the audience to accept them as necessary evils they had to commit in the name of survival, especially in the light of the Pykkts murdering her daughter. This ends up being the Rage Breaking Point where Michael decides to write a letter to her informing her that Aleea is almost assuredly still alive.
  • Good Is Not Soft: Adam is a hero in the sense that he fights to protect Rann and his family, but the series also makes it clear he's got a brutal side. At one point as he travels Rann to rally its races against the Pykkts, he's put in a gladiatorial duel with the Hellotaats' champion to prove he's worthy of their alliance, which he secures by blindsiding his Hellotaat challenger after he "wins" and beating his head into a bloody pulp. With the endgame reveal that he secretly and willingly sold out Earth to the Pykkts and used his daughter as a bargaining chip, he ends an Unscrupulous Hero at best.
  • Gun Struggle: Adam and Alanna get into one in Issue 11 when the former tries to stop the latter from calling the Justice League to save Aleea from the Pykkts in Mars' orbit. Adam gets shot in his midsection.
  • Historical Hero Upgrade: In-universe, the big source of conflict is Adam seemingly applying this to himself, retroactively questioning whether his feats of heroism on Rann really were as pure as he desired it to be. Even when the comic officially answers with a resounding "no", there's still plenty of rumination on the need to revise history for the greater good — after Adam's accidental death, Alanna and Michael agree to cover up his moral failings and claim he died in a tragic suicide, hoping to preserve what's left of the hero that history will remember him to be as they approach a greatly uncertain future without him.
  • I Did What I Had to Do: Alanna and Adam's attitude to everything they did in the Rann-Pykkt War is this. When it comes to the Pykkt invasion of Earth, Alanna goes on TV and suggests they need to adopt this attitude a second time. Adam tries to use this in Issue 11 to justify his bargain with the Pykkts to protect Aleea, but Alanna isn't having it.
  • Inconvenient Summons: Adam's struggles with Zeta Beam teleportation strikes yet again, and he finds himself occasionally beamed away from Rann back to Earth mid-sentence. This ends up resulting in grave consequences in issue #4 as the Zeta Beam fails right as he and the Hellotaats charge into battle with the Pykkts — unable to make the 25-trillion-mile return trip to Rann on his own (and other superheroes unable to help him for one reason or another), he's forced to wait out for the next beam. Sure enough, by the time it's back online, the entire squadron has been massacred without him. Adam doesn't take it well.
  • Ironic Echo: Issue 4 saw Sardath slapping Mister Terrific when the latter asks where Aleea Strange is. Issue 11 sees Sardath's daughter Alanna slapping Adam over the same exact subject.
  • Jeopardy! Intelligence Test: Mister Terrific demonstrates his incredible intelligence with a variant of this: his hovering robot drones ask him questions about a wide variety of topics at random intervals, in order to keep his mind sharp.
    Drone: What was the gross national savings of Turkmenistan in 2015?
    Mr. Terrific: (lying in bed) 18.9% of GDP.
    Drone: Correct.
  • Leave No Survivors: During the war on Rann against the Pykkts, Adam and Alanna were increasingly inclined to do this once the war started turning in their favor. Granted, the Pykkts were evidently not the type to go out peacefully, but we get several scenes showing them executing prisoners of war and non-combatants (as well as mentions of further similar activity off-panel). By the time they reached the last Pykkt outpost on the planet, it's only two soldiers who walk out hands-up in surrender, and they get torn to shreds for their troubles.
  • Mr. Fanservice: Issue 2 has a good amount of Mister Terrific shirtless and working out.
  • Mood Whiplash: Similar to Mister Miracle using the ham-tastic narration from the original run by Jack Kirby, Strange Adventures has characters speaking more bombastically in the flashbacks while the present-day counterparts speak much more casually.
  • Mythology Gag: The two frogs Aleea has (had?) in Issue 5 are based on her dad's pet frogs Stranger and Strangest, who have only ever appeared in the DC Super-Pets Character Encyclopedia.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: As if accidentally killing her husband in a Gun Struggle wasn't bad enough, Alanna ends the series distraught that everything she had fought for alongside him in the name of Rann — including committing several heinous war crimes — was all based on a great big lie that took advantage of her love and trust in him. The series also ends revealing that she was responsible for writing Adam's memoir, romanticizing it into the glorious Space Opera about a pure hero that saved the world, because to her, that's who Adam really was — the obvious implication that this is something they can never go back to thinking.
  • Never Found the Body: At the end of issue 6, Mr. Terrific asks where Alanna where she and Adam buried Aleea. Alanna says there was no body and they just built a small monument in her honor.
  • Persona Non Grata: By issue #9, with Adam's war crimes revealed to the public, he ends up expelled from the Justice League. He's really not happy that his longtime comrades hung him out to dry at his lowest point, even calling out Superman for rejecting him during his time of need before the war escalated, even after he begged him to help save one of his home planets.
  • Planetary Romance: While the story is way more gritty and mundane the closer you get to the present, the flashback segments start off as this, with Adam and Alanna roaming Rann in search of tribes to unite against the Pykkts. From there, the two encounter various tribes of zany alien races, enduring trial after trial as they rally the planet together in preparation for war. Even the dialogue present for the scenes is much more dramatic and Silver Age-y than what we see in the present day.
  • Postmodernism: The series dips into this, with the most obvious giveaway being that the memoir of Adam's tales that provokes the discussion on Adam's past influencing his present is Strange Adventures itself. Much like the in-universe book, this series is meant to raise questions on the nature of Adam Strange as a character while contextualized within various stories of his, juxtaposing the glamorous side of his Space Opera plights to the darker reality they don't generally want audiences to know about or question, overall painting him as a man between the stories he pushes onto others versus the stories that others will ultimately tell about him.
  • Precious Photo: Adam has one of him with Alanna and their late daughter, Aleea. The same photo is shown in bigger resolutions in later issues, with the high fidelity showing them showered among red flower petals, but when shrunken down, it looks like it's splattered with blood...
  • Precision F-Strike: Like most of Tom King's work, characters swear, but they're almost always censored as per personal preference (Symbol Swearing is so ingrained in the medium of superhero comics for him that averting it would feel wrong). However, we get a very pointed exception during issue #5: as the Justice League make their statement to Washington regarding the Pykkt's burgeoning invasion on Earth, a chairman expresses comfort towards the likelihood that their heroes will be able to fend them off. Alanna — having seen firsthand just how devastating the Pykkts are and knowing just how bad it's going to get for Earth — calls him out succinctly:
    Chairman Whitcomb: It is a... blessing, really, to have you and General Kannagher here to share with the American people that this is not a time for panic.
    Alanna: Bullshit.
    Chairman Whitcomb: Uh... I'm sorry... I don't... excuse me?
    Alanna: I said. Bullshit.
  • Recursive Canon: Adam Strange's memoir that kickstarts much public discourse on his life is... Strange Adventures. We can even see its front cover, and it's the same Doc Shaner cover art used for this series' first issue.
  • Red Herring: In the first few issues, Alanna is played as much more aggressive regarding the allegations made towards her husband than Adam himself, being way more defensive of his (publicly undisclosed) actions on Rann and pushing the idea that the murder of the angry book store critic was a Pykkt Frame-Up. This might raise some red flags to suggest that she's got devious motives and plans in store regarding Adam, also suggesting she did the murder, but neither of these turn out to be true — the man really was murdered by Adam all along (though he insists it was a terrible misunderstanding in a moment of weakness), and while it's revealed that she was complicit in encouraging and committing war crimes against the Pykkt, Adam made the orders to begin with, and built on a secret exchange he never shared to her.
  • The Reveal: Quite a few.
    • Issue 2: Mr. Terrific bluntly tells Batman that Aleea isn't dead, much to the latter's surprise.
    • Issue 7: Adam did indeed kill the guy who yelled at him at the book signing. Unfortunately, it was a cruel misunderstanding as Adam thought he was a Pykkt scout in disguise and shot him, only to discover he really was just a regular human. But it also turns out he was Right for the Wrong Reasons as there is indeed a Pykkt invasion of Earth underway, just completely unconnected to the bookstore incident.
    • Issue 10: Mr. Terrific reveals to Alanna via letter that Adam arranged a deal with the Pykkts saying that the former will leave Earth wide open for the former to conquer on the condition that they let him win the war on Rann. And Aleea was Adam's collateral.
    • Issue 11: Aleea is indeed very alive and is in a Pykkt attack cruiser orbiting Mars.
  • Running Gag: Issue #1 begins with Adam cheerfully introducing himself with "Hi, I'm Adam," reaching out to shake an offscreen character's hand, and the same image repeats throughout the issue, including at the very end as he meets with Mister Terrific. The final panel of the series also ends on this image, albeit drawn by Doc Shaner rather than Mitch Gerads.
  • Series Fauxnale: Strange Adventures is presented as a non-canon finale to Adam Strange's story, built around a conflict surrounding his and Alanna's retirement before a culmination of Adam's past actions on Rann start catching up to him. It also ends with Adam's death, something that definitely marks finality for this individual series, but is very unlikely to be integrated into the DCU anytime soon.
  • Ship Tease: Issue #6 focuses on Alanna and Michael's rapport as they get to know each other, and while part of this appears to be Alanna's Femme Fatale act as she's annoyed by the extent he's prodding into her and Adam's past in Rann, they end up developing a stronger relationship as the series goes on and he discovers things that she didn't know. They remain as close friends by the series end, with Alanna entrusting Michael to be Aleea's guardian on Earth as she returns to Rann for the Pykkts' revenge.
  • Shout-Out:
    • One of the people asking Adam to sign his book in Issue 1 is also buying a copy of Mister Miracle and The Sheriff of Babylon, both titles also by Tom King and Mitch Gerads.
    • The moment where Sardath slaps Mr. Terrific and gets slapped back for his troubles resembles a similar beat in In the Heat of the Night.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: The series goes all over the place with this, but generally leans towards cynical, described by King as Mister Miracle (2017)'s "angrier" successor. Strange's adventures on Rann and his conflicts on Earth initially begin as separate stories, but the zany Silver Age romanticism gets repeatedly challenged by harsh reality, with only the hope that Strange does what he needs to do to save the world being the sole glimmer of idealism. Despite unveiling just how far Adam had really fallen, the series does still end on a bittersweet note — characters have lost much from circumstance as much as lies pushed onto them, but while they're undoubtedly wounded, there's just enough victory and solace in the tank to keep moving forward.
  • Spotting the Thread: In his letter to Alanna read in issue #10, Mr. Terrific lists the three inconsistencies in her and Adam's story that made him realize that Adam made a deal with the Pykkts to help them conquer Earth in exchange for Rann being left alone and gave them his and Alanna's daughter as collateral:
    1. The Pykkts losing the battle for Rann, despite having a solid past track record of similar conquests. Reviewing the campaign, Terrific found several flaws in their actions compared to their past successes, most notably not killing Adam immediately when they had managed to kidnap him. Compounded, these mistakes lead Terrific to the conclusion that the Pykkts deliberately lost the war for Rann.
    2. The destruction of Phoenix, Arizona by the Pykkts. Terrific examined Batman's defense plan and the Pykkts' movements during the fighting carefully, and found that the gap they used to slip in wasn't predictable or open enough for them to have been able to take advantage of it in such a short time, suggesting that they had inside information.
    3. The dedication to their daughter in Adam's autobiography, specifically the Bible quote "My life is spent with grief". Though it might sound like it at a first glance, the passage is actually not about loss or mourning, but about feeling disgusted by what you have become after being hurt by your enemies; as a renowned archaeologist, Adam would know this.
  • Standard Time Units: Subverted in issue #5, where the rock people force Adam and Alanna into a cave for "a day" as they consider their request to unite against the Pykkt. No big deal, especially since their queen describes it as a "very quick" decision, right? Except Alanna points out that since the rock people live underground, they don't determine days by the sun, but rather the movement of underground rocks driven by tidal changes. In reality, they're being kept there for a month.
  • Stealth Hi/Bye: Batman (who else?) does this to Alanna in issue #3, appearing at her pool to inform her of the Justice League's investigation of her husband.
  • Strange-Syntax Speaker: The rock people of Rann's underground speak in coherent sentences, but they tend to be broken up. In beats. Of two. Or so. Words at. A time.
  • Symbol Swearing: Applied liberally in the series. Subverted when Alanna gives her speech regarding the Pykkts' ruthlessness in issue #5.
  • Synchronous Episodes: The plot occurring in the present runs like this. One issue is dedicated to Adam and Alanna while the next issue is concentrated on Mr. Terrific. For example: Issue 4 (focused on Mr. Terrific and his trip to Rann) and Issue 5 (in which Adam and Alanna are preparing to defend Earth from the Pykkts) happen around the same time as each other.
  • Take That, Critics!: In Issue 5, Adam notes that he's the target of gossip and controversy while there were other heroes like Booster Gold out there that have more unstable personalities and probably deserve more attention than he does.
    Alanna: Adam, you shouldn't listen to that crap. It's toxic.
  • Too Spicy For Yog Sogoth: A heroic (in)version: Adam and Alanna become famous and politically powerful when they convince large parts of the world that the Pykkts are too powerful, genocidal and evil for the Justice League to successfully fight, and that they need to adopt Adam's tactics in order to defeat them, something which is born out when the war starts going against Earth. Except, as Mr. Terrific realises, that's utterly ridiculous; Earth is home to the most powerful heroes in the universe who have repeatedly and successfully fought off reality-level threats, so the idea that Rann was better equipped to defeat the Pykkts — who for all their horrors are, ultimately, just another race of intergalactic conquerors — than Earth merely because of the presence of Adam Strange is utterly laughable. Unless there's someone acting as The Mole giving the Pykkts vital intel that will enable them defeat Earth — such as Adam Strange...
  • Tranquil Fury: In Issue 10, after reading Mr. Terrific's letter, Alanna goes through an entire day of meeting the President, be in press conferences, and taking photos with soldiers until she punches her bathroom mirror in a rage and shoots a Death Glare at an unaware Adam at the end.
  • Victory Is Boring: Following their initial victory against the Pykkts, Adam and Alanna chose to retire as even though they pushed back their worst enemy, they believed that they lost too much from the war (including their own daughter) and that there was nothing left for them aside from the quaint, localized Monster of the Week to deal with. However, while Alanna might've genuinely believed this, Adam was fully aware of the arrangement to fake their daughter's death and exchange Earth for Rann, so the idea was most likely just an excuse to return in preparation for the upcoming Pykkt invasion.
  • War Crime Subverts Heroism: Discussed; Adam is repeatedly questioned of the ethics regarding how he and the forces of Rann drove off the Pykkts, and a driving philosophical question is whether doing terrible things for "the greater good" is practically justifiable. Issue 9 confirms in a flashback of him committing at least two war crimes: using a chemical weapon, and then killing any Pykkts that tried to flee the base after it was detonated (no quarter), with it being confirmed that that wasn't the only incident. While definitely damning (Adam is kicked out by the Justice League once they discover the truth), there's still plenty of conflict left on whether this truly subverts all his heroism considering just how hopeless and desperate war had made everyone.
  • War Is Hell: Amidst the broad ruminations of morality and working for the greater good is a pretty definite thesis that war is a terrible, tragic, ugly thing that brings out the most monstrous acts an invader will enact in the name of conquest, as well as the barbarism their victims will resort to out of a desperate need to survive. Even with all of the murky decisions that Adam is revealed to have made, it's clear that he's just as much a victim of the uncaring armageddon as everyone else slaughtered before him, and he acted on what he genuinely believed was necessary to save his planet.
  • Wham Episode:
    • Issue 10. Alanna reads Mr. Terrific's letter explaining that Adam made a deal with the Pykkts to throw Earth under the bus in exchange for Rann and Aleea being spared. She is not pleased about this.
    • Issue 11. Adam and Alanna's relationship crumbles to dust when she grills him into admitting he made a deal with the Pykkts to spare Rann and Aleea in exchange for Earth. Adam resorts to holding Alanna at gunpoint to keep her from calling the Justice League, but there's a struggle and Adam is shot in his midsection.
  • Wham Line: In Issue 2, Mr. Terrific reveals something that shocks Batman himself:
    Mister Terrific: [Adam] writes that his daughter is dead. She is not. I doubt this is the only lie.
  • What the Hell, Hero?:
    • Adam calls out Supes and Hal Jordan for refusing to help him fight the war on Rann, and is pissed when the consequences of their rejections end up with a massive body count. This ends up getting partly flipped on him when he's ousted for committing atrocities against the Pykkt, causing the Justice League to abandon him even as the Pykkts invade Earth. However, even when Adam is revealed to have become a mole for the Pykkts' invasion, he's still just as rightfully furious that his allies still refuse to support him or accept his genuine help.
    • Alanna ends up with this after discovering the biggest reveal in the series: that Adam sold out all of Earth and their daughter in one desperate act to keep Rann safe. Furious that he resorted to such cowardly acts and lied to her about the "death" of their daughter, the two end up in a massive altercation before she can reveal everything to the public, which tragically results in Adam's accidental death.
  • Wolverine Publicity: Played with in regards to DC's superheroes. The story kicks off when Adam asks Batman to investigate him and make sure that Adam didn't kill the angry man, but Batman passed on it, due to the pair being good friends. To compensate, Batman enlists Mister Terrific to take over. Throughout the series, other DC heroes like Superman, Hawkman, and Martian Manhunter make appearances.
  • Written by the Winners: Implied as such by the fact that Rann is suspiciously insistent on the Pykkts' barbarism and villainy in both behavior and culture. Mister Terrific doesn't buy it for a minute, especially when he manages to learn their language while Rann claims it's too complicated and chaotic for them to translate.
    • Batman and Mr. Terrific interrogate a Pykkt captive after they invade Earth who states that Adam Strange and Rann inflicted genocide on his people, including Adam Strange personally executing their noncombatant women and children.
    • It becomes clearer later in the series that the conflict was much closer to Black-and-Grey Morality, with the Pykkts (particularly their leadership) being brutal conquerors while Rann committed their fair share of brutal (if understandable) acts and outright war-crimes to survive, with it being revealed that Adam agreeing to being a double-agent for the Pykkts in a later invasion of the Earth being the main reason they did.