Sunday, January 25, 2009

Retro Review: Starman TPB Volume 1(issues 0-5)

This trade collected Starman(the second series I believe, the one from the mid-1990's)#0-5.

Overall- I was really blown away by how much I enjoyed reading these 6 issues. Since I don't actually have my copy of this trade with me right now(I lent it to my sister), I'm going to be a bit light on an actual review. I'll basically go over the story in broad strokes, so if you have any questions, fire away, and I'll answer them post-haste. This comic series was set in Opal City, which seemed to be a pretty crime-free place to live thanks in large part to the efforts of the first Starman, Ted Knight, and later his son David, who winds up taking over the Starman mantle after his father retires from super-heroics. Ted also has a son named Jack who views the whole costumed super-hero idea in a pretty dim light. Shunning his father's heroic legacy, Jack winds up as the owner of an antique shop.

All of this changes when an old(and I mean that literally)foe of Ted Knight named the Mist gathers a criminal army in Opal City, and sends his own son, Kyle, out to kill both David and Jack, wanting to strike at his old rival through his family. Kyle succeeds in murdering David Knight, but only manages to wound Jack. Kyle then blows up Jack's antique shop, before destroying the lab of Ted Knight, which sends Ted to the hospital. With Starman(David Knight)dead, Mist sends out his criminal minions to terrorize the people of Opal City. Jack visits his father in the hospital and is told that the cosmic staff, the weapon of Starman, is hidden safely away, and that Jack should take up the fight in the place of his dead brother. Jack is initially hesitant, he considers himself a normal guy, not a delusional super-hero, but after watching Opal City torn apart by Mist's thugs, Jack tracks down the cosmic staff and proceeds to try to bring order back to the streets.

While this is occurring, a former criminal by the name of the Shade, who "retired" to Opal City, watches the events transpiring in Opal City with mixed emotions. On one hand, he wants to join in with the widespread criminal activity, but on the other hand, it saddens him to watch the peaceful Opal City torn apart. The Shade decides to visit with the elderly Mist and the two reminisce about old times in some of the best dialogue I've read in some time. I can't say exactly why, but I LOVED the conversation between the Mist and Shade, as the elderly Mist seems to have trouble recalling the simplest facts and is continually corrected by the refined Shade. The Shade tells Mist he'll capture Ted Knight, so that Mist can finally have his ultimate revenge on his old foe.

While Jack is out trying to restore some order to Opal City, the Shade breaks into Ted's hospital room and takes him, turning Ted over to Mist as promised. After learning of his father's abduction, Jack rushes back to the hospital and receives a call from the elderly Mist, who challenges Jack to a one on one battle to the death against the Mist's own son, Kyle. Jack agrees, and he meets Kyle in the skies high above Opal City. The two battle for several pages, before Jack impales Kyle with the cosmic staff and blasts Kyle to atoms. After that, Jack decides that he'll never kill another person, chalking up his killing of Kyle as revenge for Kyle killing his brother David.

While Jack and Kyle were having their fight, the Shade tracks down the police officers who were assigned to protect Ted Knight while he was in the hospital. The cops figure the Shade is looking for a fight, but instead, the Shade reveals the location of Mist's hidden layer, telling the cops the best way to sneak in and take out the Mist. The cops gain entrance to the Mist's headquarters, and manage to arrest him with no difficulty. As the Mist is being arrested, Jack arrives to watch the Mist led away. The Mist's daughter, upon learning that Jack had killed her brother in battle, swears revenge before being led away by the cops.

In the aftermath of the battle, Jack tells his father that he'll take up the Starman mantle, but only on a part time basis, meaning he won't be wearing any spandex, and he won't be patrolling the streets like a cop. Jack states that he'll respond when he is needed, but that he won't allow the Starman mantle to take over his life. In return, Jack asks his father to use his genius to create something better than cosmic powered weapons for Starman to use. Jack tells his father to use the cosmic energy in the staff to create instead of destroy. Ted agrees to spend his time researching better uses for the cosmic power, and Jack agrees to become Starman.

That was the main gist of what I read in this trade, however, there was a lot I left out. James Robinson(writer)really created a bunch of characters with an amazing amount of depth in just 6 issues. Jack is a very deep character, who seems very unhappy with the idea of of costumed super-heroics, and almost embarrassed by his family's Starman legacy. Jack also seems unfazed by the death of his brother, at times even questioning if he cares at all that his brother was killed. Jack's relationship with his father is predictably cantankerous, seeing as that Ted Knight created the Starman weapons and persona and Jack disdains the entire Starman idea. Besides Jack's unique outlook on super-heroics and his hesitancy to step in and become the next Starman, Jack is an obsessive collector of items, which I can readily identify with, since I am a pretty obsessive collector in my own right. Off the top of my head, I can't recall another comic book character whose life is based around the art of collecting.

Besides Jack, another character that intrigued me was the Shade. First off, the Shade's dress and manner of speech was very eye-catching(think England mid 1800's). The Shade just plain SEEMS interesting. Besides his look, his actions were pretty interesting as well. The Shade, openly admits to being an enemy of both the Golden and Silver Age Flash's(Jay Garrick and Barry Allen), but doesn't act as a conventional villain here. Granted, he does kill a thug and kidnaps Ted Knight, but he also rats Mist's location to the cops as well as visits Jack after the arrest of Mist and seems interested in assisting Jack in keeping Opal City a peaceful place.

There are many other characters who show up in these issue's, but I'll get into them as I continue to read the next few tpb's of this series. I enjoyed this comic so much that last night, I hunted down and purchased the rest of the tpb's that collect pretty much this entire series. I figure instead of putting down at least $50 for each one of the 4 Starman Omnibus', I'd actually save money if I collect used tpb's from this series, and purchase the few issues that are left out of the trades. Of course, I would have waited to order these books had I known that Final Crisis #7 was coming out this Wednesday, that way I could have ordered everything together(grumble,grumble)...

The score for this tpb is pretty easy, a 10 out of 10. I think the thing that I enjoyed the most about this comic wasn't the story itself, but the enormous amount of development James Robinson put into Jack Knight's character. Jack is a unique character in that he not only didn't want to become a hero, he hates the entire idea of costumed heroics. It should be interesting to see where James takes Jack as he continues to attempt to sort out his life while keeping his promise to his father to carry on the Starman legacy.

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