Thursday, January 29, 2009

Retro Review: Starman TPB Volume 2(issues 7-10, 12-15)

Overall- This tpb contains Starman #7-10, #12-15. I'll probably hit the story in this trade in very broad strokes so I can start reading the third Starman tpb. The sooner I finish this post, the sooner I can begin the next tpb! This tpb actually collects two separate storylines, the first of which shows Jack Knight(Starman)at his day job, buying, collecting and trading "junk" throughout the suburbs of Opal City.

While out of the city limits, Jack visits a travelling carnival, where he takes in the various sights and sounds. While looking at a blue skinned character chained to a tent wall named the Cosmic Geek(or something similar), the Geek touches Jack and causes Jack to undergo some serious hallucinations. The hallucinations give Jack the impression that the Geek is being held against his will and there is something very messed up occurring at this carnival. Once Jack is done tripping, he goes to see the head of the carnival to ask him what the hell just happened. The head Carney tries to assuage(who the hell uses a word like that?!?)Jack that it was just a minor electric shock the Geek gave him, and that he'll take that out of the act, so no one else would go through what Jack did.

Jack prepares to leave, but can't help but feel something is very wrong about this carnival. He returns during the night with his cosmic staff, and discovers that the freaks at the carnival were indeed being held against there will and that the head Carney is some kind of energy draining succubus. Needless to say, this leads to a confrontation between Jack and the succubus, which Jack ultimately wins. The freaks, now free, decide to continue running the carnival on their own. Jack takes the Cosmic Geek to his father Ted, and Ted recognizes the Geek as a former Starman named Michael. Since Michael seems to have little to no memory about his past, Ted decides to try to help him regain some semblance of his past.

The next storyline was the real treat in this tpb. It details the daughter of the first Mist escaping from prison and transforming herself into a villain in the same manner her father did. Once she gains her father's powers, the girl, Nash, takes on her father's moniker and becomes the new Mist. To show she has the same gumption as her father, Mist decides to create a crime wave in Opal City, just like her father used to do. Mist also manages to kidnap Michael, Solomon Grundy(don't ask!), as well as Jack himself. She manages to drug Jack, who wakes up laying naked in a bed with a partially clad Mist standing in the room with him.

Mist tells Jack that if he wants to leave, he'll have to find all of his clothing(including the cosmic staff)while surviving a small army of thugs she had hired to kill him. Mist then leaves and Jack begins his trek through the warehouse in search of his clothes. While Jack is fighting for his life(and clothes!), his father, Ted, is being attacked by Dr. Phosphorus, who seems to be your run of the mill c-list villain. Mist hired Phosphorous to kill Ted, but Ted manages to trick Phosphorus and defeat him. In the meantime, Mist's crime wave is ravaging the city, while she is hunting down people she suspects may have stolen her father's war medals. Unfortunately for Mist, she is never able to find her dad's war medals.

Eventually, Jack gains possession of his clothing and has defeated the thugs that Mist had employed to kill him. As Jack prepares to take possession of his staff, Mist appears behind him gun in hand and tells Jack that this entire escapade was just a dry run for the future. Mist says that Jack isn't the hero he needs to be yet and that she isn't the criminal she needs to be yet either. Mist tells Jack she could easily shoot him right now, but that she won't, telling him that they'll meet again in 11 months, before she fades away. With Mist gone, the police manage to bring order back to the streets of Opal City, and Jack reflects on what just happened to him.

Now, I'll be perfectly honest with you here, while I've thoroughly enjoyed the stories in these comic books, the main treat is reading about the complexity of the characters and the masterful dialogue James Robinson(writer)gives to each character. It's impossible to read these comics and NOT become interested by each character and their motivations. Each character is very deep, even Mist, the villain. She is determined to punish Jack for the death of her brother, and prove herself to be a capable villain in the mold of her father. However, she's not just a one-dimensional crazy villain, she wants to get back her father's old war medals, because as her father gets older and begins to remember less and less about his life, those medals were something that he still remembered and spoke about, even at his advanced age. Yes, Nash is a bad person, as is shown by the crime wave, and what I suspect she did with Jack while he was drugged and unconscious, but she is also a dutiful daughter, who in her own insane, warped way is trying to make her father happy and proud of her.

Besides Jack, who as I stated in an earlier post is one of the most complete comic book characters I have ever read about, there is his father, Ted. In one incredibly well done scene, Jack is wearing a t-shirt with the image of the dead villain Ragdoll on it. Ted tells Jack that he hates the shirt and wishes Jack wouldn't wear it. Jack responds with his usual attitude towards his father, basically telling him the shirt was cool, and to chill out. Ted then tells Jack a story about a time when he was still Starman, and Ragdoll, along with his followers were going around and horrifically murdering people all throughout Opal City. Ted, in desperation called in the JSA to help him catch the insane Ragdoll. The JSA spread throughout Opal City and began to restore order to the Ragdoll induced chaos.

Ultimately, Ted, Jay Garrick(The Flash) and Alan Scott(The Green Lantern)catch up to the evil Ragdoll. During the battle, Ragdoll threatens to kill Jay's wife, Alan's family and Ted's two sons. Ted tells Jack that Ragdoll didn't survive the battle after that threat, stating that he didn't remember what happened or who did it, but that Ragdoll died that day. After that story, and seeing the pain in his father's eyes, Jack tells his father he'd go home and burn the shirt. Now, since I didn't write the conversation out verbatim, it loses some of it's power, but to me that conversation was immensely powerful. It shows that these great heroes, Starman, Flash and Green Lantern are only human and when they were pushed too far, they struck back lethally. That one single conversation really served to humanize Ted Knight so very much to me. While he did indeed possess this great weapon and dress in a gaudy super-hero outfit, he was in the end human, and when his sons were threatened, he did what he felt had to be done to protect them.

Like I said, the dialogue in this series is some of the best I've ever read in a comic book. Just for the dialogue alone, I'd recommend these comics, but the story is damn good as well. Starman is really the total package for a comic book fan. For a score, I'll give this tpb a 10 out of 10. Although I didn't really care for the carnival storyline, everything else in this trade was pure gold.

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