"Strange Nation" Trade Paperback Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by IDW Publishing
Written by Paul Allor
Illustrated by Juan Romera
2015, 132 Pages
Trade Paperback released on August 19th, 2015
We've all been in the grocery store checkout lane and caught a glimpse of tabloids like Weekly World News. Headlines such as “Bat Boy Leads Cops on 3 State Chase!” or “Satan's Skull Found in New Mexico!” are just some of the many insane topics that have graced the covers of such distinguished publications. We laugh and think how silly they can be because they're all fake...right? What if they weren't? What if they were telling the truth and not in a joke way like Men in Black? That's just one of the pieces of Strange Nation from Paul Allor and Juan Romera.
Strange Nation centers on journalist Norma Park. She's essentially Lois Lane if she existed in the real world. Just like Ms. Lane, Norma cannot let go of a story. After she stumbles upon a doomsday cult and an alien invasion, she's laughed out of every legitimate newspaper in the area and forced to slum it at the tabloid Strange Nation. The staff there are the only ones that believe her and definitely the only ones willing to publish her story. Using the Lois Lane comparison one more time, imagine if she discovered Superman's origin, but no one believed Superman was real. She'd be seen as a lunatic.
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The book gets into a crazy conspiracy that is fitting for a tabloid newspaper. Cults and aliens are just the tip of the iceberg. There is a literal army of sasquatchs that is brilliantly illustrated by Juan Romera. Let that sink in for a moment. Yes, it's just as cool as you're imagining it to be. Writer Paul Allor reveals bits and pieces of the mystery as the comic progresses, pulling you in to the story. You have to find out more. The alien invasion is pretty epic and it's explained in a way that makes a scary amount of sense. We literally dive right into the unknown from page one. There's no doubt that these creatures are real. You just take it for granted as you read the book.
In many ways, Strange Nation is reminiscent of Bubba Ho-tep. It has that same strange yet moderately goofy feeling. It's even got an Elvis. I would have liked to see some of his story explored further. Norma is fleshed out pretty well, but we don't spend a lot of time with the supporting characters. The design for Norma says a lot about her as a character. She has this defeated and frustrated look about her, like Strange Nation is her last hope of fulfilling her dream of being a hard hitting journalist. It's tough to be like Woodward and Bernstein when you're writing about aliens.
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Romera's artwork is perfect for this story. There's something about it that's just a little silly, but filled with heart. Yes, there's a man with a gorilla head, but it doesn't look stupid or out of place. You just kind of go with it. He sells in the bizarre so convincingly. Romera can nail a perfect facial expression or reaction shot that brings in a nice touch of humor, whether that's a hapless neighbor waving like an idiot or Norma drooling as she sleeps at her desk.
Strange Nation really captures the essence of one of those supermarket tabloid magazines, but in a good way, like when you saw one as a kid and your imagination ran wild at the possibilities of a real life Loch Ness Monster or Bigfoot. Anyone that's ever wondered about the unknown will love this comic. The Lone Gunmen would dig this. They've probably read all of Norma's stories.