As I said before, the first volume of this series, titled “The Strange Talent of Luther Strode,” was “‘Kick-Ass’ done right.” Of course it also ended with the main character losing almost everything and everyone important to him and then going on to fake his death via “suicide by cop.” It doesn’t exactly set things up for a sequel, but that can be an advantage in itself since the reader won’t have any expectations about where you’re going next time. Writer Justin Jordan utilizes that pretty well early on in this volume as the implication is that it’s going to be about the title character’s actions as a crimefighting urban legend. Then he shifts gears to deliver what is easily one of the most violent and gory spectacles I’ve ever seen in comics.
As a longtime fan of writers who deal in this kind of ultraviolence like Garth Ennis and Warren Ellis, I have to say that Jordan and artist Tradd Moore manage to top them on sheer brutality alone. We get an incredible sequence early on as Luther utilizes a van in several creative ways to get the drop on a sex slave operation. Heads are severed, hearts are ripped out, and that’s only a prelude to the real carnage later in the volume. As the action shifts to Luther’s hideout, a mall, and a mob boss’ mansion, things only spiral further into blood-sodden madness. Knives are caught in muscles, people are bisected by bare hands, blood is used to blind a person at range, and a chainsaw is used to put a definitive stamp on the proceedings.
While credit has to go to Jordan for putting this all in his script, “Legend” is really Moore’s show. He displayed a talent for kinetic action of the kind that John Romita Jr. traffics in and here he just takes it to the next level. There’s a “Looney Tunes”-level of cartoonishness to the violence as it escalates throughout the volume which results in some incredibly dynamic fight scenes. One of the book’s real pleasures is seeing how Moore manages to top himself with each fight while still keeping everything clear enough for the reader to follow. The man also has a real eye for dynamic visuals such as Luther’s “breaking of the chains” sequence and the two-page spread of death that kicks off the fight at the mall.
So while the book is visually fantastic, the writing isn’t quite up to that level. Yes, Jordan clearly knows how to pace this action-filled story and he gives his cast some good lines throughout. He even manages to keep the title character sympathetic throughout the carnage through his interaction with Petra, and by pitting him against genuine villains who are even worse monsters than he is. Beyond that though, this story is all-action, all the time. Taken on that surface level, it’s quite good. However, it doesn’t really have any depth beyond that while the overall story of “Luther vs. the Murder Cult” is only advanced marginally by the end of the volume. There’s also the fact that this story is essentially one gigantic fight scene and that means there’s really very little room for characterization beyond the combatants trying to one-up each other in their taunts. Jordan may have topped Ennis and Ellis in sheer violent spectacle, but it’s clear that he has a ways to go before he can actually claim to be a better writer and storyteller than them.
Still, what we get in “The Legend of Luther Strode” is likely the best result we could’ve hoped for in a volume-length fight scene. Its energy never flags throughout and things never become wearying or dull. Granted, the nature of the book likely means that you’ve probably already made a decision about whether or not it’s for you before getting to this point. Though I can say that this is one for me, I hope that Jordan and Moore are able to cram a meaningful amount of story into the next volume along with all of the bloody, bloody fisticuffs.