Sunday, April 8, 2012

A Week of Good Stuff begins: Starman Volume 9 - Grand Guignol

I've decided to make it easy on myself. This is a week of reviewing stuff that I like. No, stuff I LOVE. This is the Week of Good Stuff.

I don't know if I've ever mentioned this here, but James Robinson's Starman was the single greatest comic book in the history of the medium.

Big claim, huh? Not really. This was the only truly wonderful thing that has ever come out of a major crossover event at either DC or Marvel. Or anywhere for that matter. Alan Moore and Grant Morrison deconstructed heroes in Watchmen, Doom Patrol and Animal Man. James Robinson built them back up into true heroes and human beings in the pages of Starman.

Robinson has a special flare for writing comic books that shows his love and respect for the medium. A throwaway line here mentioning Commando Yank or Codename: Assassin, a picture of the original Justice Society in a background there, all the while pacing what was really an 84-issue story of a single man in the fictional world of Opal City.

This tale begins with the abrupt murder of David Knight, who had just taken the hereditary identity of Starman from his father. His brother Jack, a tattooed slacker and collectibles nut, is forced to take up the mantle. But he does it reluctantly and does it his own way. No costume, just a leather jacket and goggles and a long golden Cosmic Staff.

It is no spoiler to tell readers that Jack grows into his role as a hero and defender of the city. It also is no spoiler to say that he eventually gives it all up for the love of a woman and his newborn son. It would be a spoiler to reveal many of the twists and turns that got him there, and which opened up a new world to readers.

My favorite story line is encapsulated in Starman Volume 9: Grand Guignol. This trade paperback features a yearlong adventure that has Jack returning from a trip to outer space to find Opal City besieged by almost every major villain that had been featured in the series so far, led by a villainous version of the Shade, the erudite anti-hero who had become one of Jack's friends. Luckily, Jack has friends, such as the Elongated Man and his wife, Adam Strange, another Starman, Black Condor, Phantom Lady, the Black Pirate and a family of policemen dedicated to protecting their city. He also has the help of his own father, the original Starman.

This is one of those perfect stories. Triumph and tragedy, life and death. It is all here, on as mythic scale as we have in today's world. There's a realism amid the flying capes and elastic fists and radioactive men that draws you into Opal City on a level that's hard to explain. You cheer the triumphs and you weep for the lost as if they were real people.

And not to forget the other contributor: Peter Snejbjerg provides some atmospheric art. His style if very reminiscent of the Brothers Hernandez in Love and Rockets, and is a perfect compliment to Robinson's story.

The series has recently been recollected into the Starman Omnibus series, so it is very easy to find all of the series.  You can jump right in anywhere, or start from the beginning. It doesn't matter. Each volume in the trade paperback series has everything you would want in a great comic book.

This series is one of the very few things in the planet that I would label inspiring.


by Rich Meyer

If you name a comic book character from the last 70 years, you'll probably find a question about them - from Thor and the X-Men, to Superman and Batman, to Little Lulu and the Pink Panther. There are questions about almost every genre of comic book - superhero, funny animal, teen, horror, war, humor. 

This quiz book has 1,001 questions (and answers) for the most neophyte of fans and questions that will probably stump a few of the experts!

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