There are action movies and then there are adventure movies. The two are innately connected, but there is a difference. Strayer #3 benefits from both. This issue is all about the action, but it’s the sense of the larger quest, the diversion from it, and the looming chase that gives it its energy.
There’s definitely a lack of significance in the adversaries that Justin Jordan sets Strayer and Mala against this month. Powerful as they might be, they’re kind of mooks. I suspect that this is intentional, to highlight the shadowy threat that the High Arbiter presents, however it only works as well as it does because this is our second major threat.
There’s also a lack of explanation as to why the action pauses, other than to allow for exposition.
Still, I opened with a comparison to adventure movies for a reason. Like the film odysseys of yesteryear, Strayer’s greatest attribute is its sense of excitement and wonder. Justin Jordan’s enthusiasm for this story keeps it engaging and the characters likable. To be honest, I don’t remember what a couple of the newer characters are named – we don’t get a reminder this month to my knowledge – but I know that I like them, and the fact that they’re ‘merely’ incredibly capable normal warriors and still earn the reader’s affection is a rare and difficult tightrope to walk.
Juan Gedeon remains a decidedly interesting artist. Even more than in the past, Gedeon employs the malleable, detail-light look alongside his more traditional style. I’m sure some readers won’t much care for that, as, honestly, I go back and forth on it. Nevertheless, Gedeon’s talent for visual storytelling holds the art together. While many panels may lack key details, I don’t think you’ll ever wonder what’s happening or how the characters are reacting. In fact, the cartoonish reactions of some of the characters do a huge amount to assure readers that this book doesn’t have to take itself 100% seriously, which is a big part of its charm.
And whether it comes from Jordan’s script or Gedeon’s design sense, the timing of the panels is spot on. From the first page’s run in with a kasha to Mala’s contribution to the battle to our check in back in town, there’s a remarkable specificity to the pace and movement of the characters. The pauses are a huge part of the storytelling and they’re used expertly.
Strayer is an odd bird, and one that feels nostalgic for several, completely asynchronous eras. This chapter will probably work better in a trade than it does as a standalone installment, but the perfectly paced storytelling and palpable charm help what could feel like padding engage and entertain. I may not have put down this issue thinking that it was amazing, but I definitely put it down excited about this series and what it will bring. Keep an eye on this one.