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Comics reviews: 'Strange Adventures' and 'Aaron and Ahmed,' adventures both strange and realistic

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Strange Adventures #1 (Vertigo)

The venerable DC title gets an artsy makeover with some substance, via Vertigo, and with a beautiful Paul Pope-adelic cover. A few too many of the nine stories resort to surprise endings anyone who’s ever seen The Twilight Zone will see coming a mile away. (The art, however, by people such as Denys Cowan, Juan Bobillo, and Inaki Miranda, is terrific.) One stand-out: Writer-artist Jeff Lemire’s updating of “Ultra the Multi-Alien” is fantastic – witty and beautiful, invoking a Silver Age past without resorting to nostalgia. And the start of a new Brain Azzarello/Eduardo Rizzo collaboration, “Spaceman,” represents sci-fi comic-book created on an addictive, mind-blowing level. Aaron and Ahmed (Vertigo hardcover)

Jay Cantor and James Romberger

This has been out for a month, but I’m glad I caught up with it. Cantor, a superb novelist who has made intricate fiction with comics-rooted underpinnings (1988’s Krazy Kat: A Novel in Five Panels), follows Aaron Goodman, who in the wake of 9/11 and the death of his fiancée, becomes an interrogator at Guantanamo Bay. There he meets Ahmed, a prisoner, and the two of them bond in unusual ways. Romberger’s art is a fine version of bony realism – his figures are so casually realistic, you can almost see the joints moving. Cantor wants to get at something about “meme theory,” the concept that ideas can take hold in people’s minds and spread like a human version of a computer virus. The result is a complex, humane tale, one with more genuine surprises than most of the ones in Strange Adventures, although grounded in reality.