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The ’90s Revisited: Starman #45

90s_revisited

starman_0045Star Shadows part four: Starlight, StarBRIGHT!

Writer: Len Strazewski
Penciller: John Calimee
Inker: Roy Richardson
Letterer: Bob Pinaha
Colorist: Tom McCraw
Editor: Paul Kupperberg
Cover Date: April 1992
Cover Price: $1.25
Published by: DC Comics

And here we are…final chapter of this 4-part Starman adventure!

The issue opens with the proclamation of the story title, as we look over Kitty Faulkner’s shoulder to see Bruce Gordon’s jet arriving. She sees Bruce but wonders where Will is? As she greets the disembarking Gordon, she’s horrified to find that it’s Eclipso…and even as Rampage, she’s no match for the villain. Will freefalls into the bay and crawls out to a phone booth to call the JLE, but gets a voice service instead. Meanwhile, Eclipso commandeers lab equipment to put a plan in motion: STORE excess energy he drains from Will to use at his convenience. While he torments Kitty for providing him the means to this end, Starman bursts in and the two fight. Will gets the worst of it until Power Girl shows up and joins the fight. Kitty also eventually joins in, having been freed…but unable to transform back into Rampage, she uses a tech gun to blast Eclipso. The heroes immobilize the villain and Starman pops a burst of solar energy, reverting the villain to Bruce Gordon. Day saved, they mill about…as Kitty realizes there’s no way she can compete with Power Girl for Will’s affection. Clueless of her anguish, Will has to chase after her to find out why she’s reacting as she does and the two talk things out…and we end with them clear on how they feel for each other, and Will making a crack about their age difference.

It’s definitely "interesting" seeing Mignola’s work on the cover…though at this point in 2022 and eager to get from this story to the "main event" and such, more than a bit is lost on me. The cover seems rather generic and Eclipso far too bulky, taking on Starman physically. There’s a loose/lack-of-detail Power Girl off to the side almost as an afterthought; and the sun in the background–presumably setting–hardly seems appropriate even symbolically for Eclipso to have such a physical advantage "already" (if the sun is SETTING and NOT rising). It also seems much too bright for the cover callout of "ECLIPSED!". Maybe it’s just MY interpretation/assumptions with this cover but at a glance I might almost think the villain to be sun-based in power rather than the darkness/eclipse.

Story-wise things aren’t all that deep on the whole…it seems like a lot of padded-out fighting and boasts/quips/threats. And Kitty’s jealousy/reaction/over assumption about Power Girl and Will seems sudden and rather shoehorned-in; arbitrary drawma for the sake of drama. (Not that jealousy and such feelings are rational…they’re totally understandable) If this were a masterpiece of superhero fiction I’d presumably be a lot more familiar with it, so "history" seems to support that. Despite this, it comes off as a fairly typical ’90s comic, and a series itself setting…as this turns out to be THE final issue of the series. 45 issues, not QUITE 50…but hey, it sure lasted longer than many modern series that seem to be lucky to crack double-digits at all!

The art team seems a bit more consistent–matching with the previous chapter and the first chapter. Which is a far cry from modern comics where there seems to be more insistence on "integrity of the art team" than on-time shipping of a book. Having an apparently "fill-in" team on an issue may’ve kept the series "on time," which used to be important but not so much in 2022.

With Strazewski’s name on this fueling my nostalgia–the WANT to like the story–I feel almost guilty that I didn’t really "enjoy" this issue. This entire arc has been "in the way" of getting to the Eclipso: The Darkness Within event itself, though, and not a story I remember from the ’90s–I don’t think I was even aware of this series itself until a few years ago, and this story in particular until shortly after. And this has been my first time reading it, so you could say that THIS story was "eclipsed by" the event story.

Nothing about the issue in itself particularly indicates that this is a final issue. No such callout on the cover, and no particular note on the final page of the story. It’s only in wording from the editor at the end of the letters page that one would realize this isn’t JUST the conclusion of a 4-part story but the conclusion of the series itself.

While I had thought this was a prologue/lead-in to The Darkness Within, it definitely does not seem to be the case. More like this story just happened to come about not long before a big event featuring the same villain. A quirk of timing more than any plan or "synergy" or whatever.

It remains to be seen if ANY of this story carries over into the event…but unless something specifically from this story plays a key role in that, I feel it’s pretty safe to say one would not need this story to get into The Darkness Within story.

I’m not sure my $2-3/issue was truly "worth it" for this story, but for "context" and knowing this was there, I’m glad to at least have read it so that whatever part it plays is a "known quantity" for me.

We’ll see how Eclipso: The Darkness Within #1 holds up to my now-heightened expectation and such!

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The ’90s Revisited: Starman #44

90s_revisited

starman_0044Star Shadows part three: Dark of the Moon!

Writer: Len Strazewski
Penciller: John Calimee
Inker: Roy Richardson
Letterer: Bob Pinaha
Colorist: Tom McCraw
Editor: Paul Kupperberg
Cover Date: March 1992
Cover Price: $1.25
Published by: DC Comics

We open with Lobo in our face (metaphorically-speaking) ready to throw a punch. The issue is basically one big fight scene, with Lobo vs. Eclipso, Eclipso vs. Starman, Lobo vs. Starman, Starman and Eclipso vs. Lobo…a bunch of posturing, tough-guy cracks, etc. Eventually Eclipso convinces Starman to help him…but after they manage to "fake" Eclipso/Bruce’s "death" and Lobo takes off to collect his bounty, Eclipso betrays Starman, uses some of his energy, and heads to Earth. As Starman realizes the danger to Kitty back on Earth–expecting Bruce and Will, not the evil Eclipso–he, too, heads back to Earth.

Well, we’re back to Calimee/Richardson on the art, as with #42, and this issue is decidedly less "cartoony" than the previous. And I’ll give credit to the page layouts–in general–for actually having multiple panels, clear gutters overall, etc. This is not a bad issue to look at visually. But it’s basically one big fight scene.

The story is ok-ish…we do glean a BIT of information, such as Eclipso specifically wanting Starman as a battery, to use the hero’s sun-energy and his own black diamond. Eclipso recognizes the hands of the Lords of Chaos in stuff, so it’s not some unknown quantity thing.

Even though it’s been years since I’ve read anything Eclipso-related, specifically anything from The Darkness Within, I feel like there’s something "off" to the character’s presentation here. Expecting this to be a set-up/prologue to that event certainly impacts my lens through which I’m seeing this Star Shadows story.

There’s not much, really, for me to say beyond that. Lobo (because ’90s and Lobo has to be everywhere); tail-end of an ongoing series, yadda yadda yadda. Despite Lobo being on the cover, this doesn’t really have much to offer the reader as a standalone issue…especially 30 years later; but as with previous issues, if you find the entire arc together and at bargain pricing, it might be worth the purchase/read.

I’m much more eager to get to the start of The Darkness Within, again assuming that this story leads into that. So far I’m not seeing any connection other than "Eclipso," so maybe that’ll be something the next/final issue of this story gets to?

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The ’90s Revisited: Starman #43

90s_revisited

starman_0043Star Shadows part two: Blue Moon

Writer: Len Strazewski
Artist: Vince Giarrano
Letterer: Bob Pinaha
Colorist: Tom McCraw
Editor: Paul Kupperberg
Cover Date: February 1992
Cover Price: $1.25
Published by: DC Comics

Well, then…this is a definite change from the modern way of "Delay Delay Delay" to "preserve artistic integrity" for an "inevitable" "graphic novel"–this issue’s artist is a Vince Giarrano, the previous issue’s team of John Calimee, Andrew Smith, Roy Richardson, and Alan Kupperberg. That said, I honestly didn’t immediately notice, I just took the issue’s contents at face value, figuring "oddness" was my lack of in-depth familiarity and fondness for the title and character(s).

This issue opens on a several-page flashback starring Lobo, giving us some random–possibly "typical"–but tame–Lobo "stuff". The character in a bar, being very uncouth, rough, and fairly caricatureish overall…with some then-timely pop-culturally references before being sent on his way to fight Eclipso for a bounty. We also see that the seemingly arbitrary character putting him on the path to Eclipso is actually an avatar of the Lords of Chaos. Lobo literally crosses paths with Starman and Dr. Bruce Gordon. Starman and Lobo fight for a bit, while we see a certain evil emerging with Dr. Gordon that–sixteen pages into our issue–pretty much catches us up to where the previous left off! Eclipso lets on that he definitely had a hand in Starman’s origin before stepping in with Will’s (losing) battle with Lobo. A blast of darkness pauses the battle, reveals Eclipso’s presence, and gives us another cliffhanger as Lobo goofily recognizes his target.

I had to have noticed SOMEthing was up with the art but it didn’t stand out to me until going back through the issue for this post–it got very generic and cartoony at points. It’s far superior than anything I myself could produce, but it’s a far cry from stand-out, impressive distinct work that I’d remember significantly down the road. It gets the job done, for what story there is.

The Lords of Chaos in this issue "should" mean more to me I’m sure, but mostly just ring a distant bell in my mind. I believe something involving a retcon on the nature of Eclipso, but I’m reading along for the experience and there are plenty of sites/blurbs out there to fill in gaps if one wants to go hunting for info. My "retcon sense" is definitely tingling, certainly helped along by the "meta" nature of my read-through for this story–knowing this is THE final arc for the series, possibly the last starring presence of Will Peyton, and kinda leading into the summer 1992 Eclipso: The Darkness Within "event" in DC’s annuals. Having previously only read the issue that crossed over with the Superman: Krisis of the Krimson Kryptonite, I don’t have any great knowledge of this title, its tone, and all that sorta context. This has the feel of a hastily-ending series with a "new" villain shoehorned in as "the Big Bad All Along" or such.

Even saying that, though, it’s definitely an "older" and "’90s" comic…for better and worse. Two chapters in of four and I’m beginning to "regret" my idea to start with these issues rather than diving into Eclipso: The Darkness Within #1. I feel like part of me WANTS to like and enjoy this more than I am…but that’s certainly on rose-colored-glasses/memories of enjoying Strazewski’s stuff in the past and the nostalgia the name brings to mind for me.

This is definitely another single issue that I’m not gonna recommend AS an arbitrarily contextless single-issue purchase or quest. If you’re following this classic Starman series, or going after this Eclipso story for pre-The Darkness Within context, etc, it’s worth getting to have the arc; but I feel like I at least could definitely do just fine without it.

We’ll see what the next couple chapters hold!

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The ’90s Revisited: Starman #42

90s_revisited

starman_0042Star Shadows part one: Sun Spots!

Writer: Len Strazewski
Pencillers: John Calimee, Andrew Smith
Inkers: Roy Richardson, Alan Kupperberg
Letterer: Bob Pinaha
Colorist: Tom McCraw
Editor: Paul Kupperberg
Cover Date: January 1992
Cover Price: $1.25
Published by: DC Comics

The cover of this issue proclaims "Eclipso casts a shadow of DOOM over STARMAN!" and we see some weird guy lurking as the background casting a shadow over the title logo, while Starman looks on in apparent surprise while someone in a labcoat looks on, also in apparent surprise…and there’s some linework suggesting a machine of some sort. I see Mignola‘s "signature," presumably Mike Mignola–better known for Hellboy and such. Which explains the stylized nature of Eclipso on the cover. I’ve long associated Mignola with Hellboy and forget that he did work for DC!

We open on a full page piece showing a weird face partway between transformation, and someone asking Starman what’s going on…as she pieces together that this guy really IS the hero and that’s why he’s been flaking on her. His powers surge and he has to direct it to not incinerate her. He quickly heads to STAR Labs for Kitty’s help…but after crashing into Kitty’s lab, collapses. When he comes to, hours later, he’s being examined by both her and some other guy…apparently a Bruce Gordon. We get some expositional conversation, a couple of footnotes to recent back issues, and a bit of context of Kitty (she’s also Rampage), Will (a montage of sorts of his origin/career), and then Bruce and his darker half brought out by a black diamond–Eclipso. And apparently it was actually Eclipso that caused Will to get his powers! After deciding they need to get Will into outer space to better get a read on what’s going on WITH his powers, Will gets a moment with Kitty where he reveals his true face and name and they confess their love for each other. Getting into space with Bruce’s spacecraft, they’re hit by something…as they reel from it, we see that it’s Lobo! Meanwhile, Eclipso apparently re-emerges from Bruce.

Just about all I know about Starman is that his "superhero name" is Starman, star of this book; he’s got SOME sort of legacy tie that came into play in the post-Zero Hour James Robinson series; he’s got solar powers, supporting cast member Kitty is Kitty Faulkner/Rampage who had also been in some early post-Man of Steel-era Superman; and whatever I gleaned from Starman #28 that tied in to the Krisis of the Krimson Kryptonite story in the Superman books in 1990-ish.

But hey, that’s enough for ME, for jumping in "cold" to a #42!

While Mignola‘s work on the cover is fairly recognizable–once I realized it was his work–I’m not terribly keen on it. My initial impression looking at the cover was some generic artist’s work, some lower-tier art for a lower-tier comic that when you look at modern DC stuff you wouldn’t even realize ever even EXISTED–both the title, and the character. The art throughout the issue’s not bad, but doesn’t blow me away…I’m really not consciously familiar with the artists. Len Strazewski I recognize from Ultraverse comics–namely as a co-creator of Prime!

The writing here isn’t bad…there’s definitely a lot of context/exposition that seems vastly out of place at this point in 2022–THIRTY YEARS after this comic was originally "new"! But for its time, it works; and it gives someone like me stuff to follow along with and to appreciate. I may not be "up" on all the subtleties of the issue, but it gets across key stuff as I learn more about Starman’s background than I could have recited prior to reading the issue; gives us some development with Will and Kitty, introduces us to this Bruce Gordon guy, and a bit about his history with/as Eclipso, while setting us up for later chapters by the end of the issue.

I can honestly say that I was surprised at Lobo’s showing up…he’s not on the cover, not mentioned, and I went into this issue figuring we’d simply have Starman ultimately encountering references to Eclipso if not the villain himself.

My introduction to Eclipso came through the summer/fall of 1992 with several of the DC Annuals that year; but those came after this issue/story…which is part of why I’m reading it now: I assume it’s THE reintroduction of Eclipso to the DC Universe, and that this story presumably sets up the Eclipso: The Darkness Within event/crossover. So I’m curious for the context and such, and look forward to getting into further chapters.

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