Sunday, April 17, 2011

Review: Starman Omnibus vol. 1

Set in the DC Universe, Starman vol. 1 is a breath of fresh air for those who are burnt out on the typical, run of the mill super hero titles. 

Like many superhero tales that are drowning in cliches, this one starts out with the typical reluctant hero narrative.  Jack Knight is the second son of Ted Knight, better known as the golden age hero, Starman.  Ted's crime fighting days are over, and his older son, David, has taken up his cape and scepter.  However, when David gets brutally gunned down, and Ted is assassinated, it is up to Jack to set his collectibles business aside and take over as Opal City's hero.

The learning curve is quite steep for Jack, a guy who is more comfortable looking for collectible view-masters than he is thwarting bad-guys, but the man is stubborn to say the least, and when faced with protecting the shattered remnants of his family, he wont back down.  Jack might keep telling himself that he's not a hero, but is his own inner doubt, and that fact that he doesn't play by the typical hero rules help make him the perfect hero for all the villainy that Opal City faces.

From the very early stages of his career, Jack Knight has to face The Mist, a criminal master mind who's plan to take over Opal City is off to a picture perfect start.  Jack has to learn quickly, or face the same fate of his father and older brother.

Initially, I was slightly under-whelmed by Starman.  I'd been told that it is hands down the most bad-ass superhero comic of all time, but the first story arc played out in pretty standard super-hero style.  The only thing really unique about it was that Jack Knight as Starman was a pretty unique hero.  Lucky for me the omnibus edition packs in the first sixteen issues of this epic series.

Jack sort of very slowly, and reticently grows into the role of Starman over the course of this graphic novel.  Watching him take ownership of the role is pretty cool, as he definitely has his own style.  Jack Knight as Starman is only one small aspect of Jack Knight however.  The real Jack Knight is an avid, one might say rabid, collector of, well...collectibles.  This lust for old, interesting stuff gives you a good sense of his personality.  Jack definitely is more comfortable surrounding himself with things of the past rather than concerning himself with the events of today.  That is partially what made him such a reluctant hero in the early stages, and is continually a cool part of his character throughout this volume.  There are scenes where he's battling bad guys, but day dreaming about certain collectibles he wants to get his hands on.  Sort of like how I daydream my way through a dull class, doing what I gotta do before I can do what I wanna do.  Of any super hero alter-ego, Jack Knight might be the most regular dude of them all.

Rightly so, Jack Knight is the heart of this comic, but writer James Robinson fills out the pages with some other cool, fun and interesting characters.  The Mist, and his evil progeny are capable, even dangerous bad guys, and Ted Knight the original Starman is a pretty interesting character who I look forward to learning more about.  The best of the secondary characters though is easily The Shade.  The guy's motives are on the extreme side of murky, and he seems to be one of Jack's few allies at the moment, but I wouldn't be surprised to see that change anytime.  The Shade is a Victorian era immortal with the power to manipulate shadows.  He can turn the shadows into beasts, or whatever, that do his bidding.  An awesome power to say the least.

The art of Starman is chiefly handled by Tony Harris, best known by me as the artist of  Ex Machina.  It's pretty interesting to take a trip back in time about 10-15 years and see the artist that was.  The early pages of Starman don't really hold a candle to his work on Ex Machina, but one very cool aspect of this graphic novel is that you can see Harris' skills improve as the issues go by.  He really seemed to come into his own, and start looking like the Tony Harris I know and love in the fifth issue.  That issue is all in shades of gray and you can really see Harris' signature style of body language, facial expression, and fantastic line work come into fruition.  From there I noticed a definite increase in the quality of his artwork through the rest of the graphic novel. 

Though I was skeptical in the early stages, I think I was eventually won over by Starman.  Though I didn't find this as enjoyable as much of the non-hero oriented comics I read, I still think this is one of the best superhero tales I've ever read.  Though pricey, the omnibus edition is a good way to go if you wanna read the definitive Starman collection.  The packaging is pretty damn nice, and high quality.  Rumor has it that the series only gets better from here on out, and if my wallet is willing and able, I'm down for another trip to Opal City in the future.

Do you read super hero comics and yearn for something more substantial? Do you read alternative comics and get the occasional craving for a some superhero action?  Starman volume 1 is your fix.

Grade: B-

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