Welcome to the first installment of Book Report, my sure-to-be-irregular column in which I’ll be writing solo reviews of graphic novels and trade paperbacks that are essential to the health and well-being of any properly adjusted comic fan. For my first offering, I thought I’d recycle an oldie (at least, it’s an oldie where I come from…) that originated at my dearly departed blog Aquaman is Watching You. Yes, Virginia, I tried to make a go at the comic book review game before Matt and I developed THN. It was short-lived, but I had a blast doing it. And if nothing else, it inspired me to become the svelte comic book journalist you know and tolerate.
This particular review won me a copy of the first Umbrella Academy trade paperback from the good folks at the Pull List Podcast — you should most definitely check those guys out at your earliest convenience. Their show was a direct inspiration to THN and they deserve your support.
FUN FACT: I have sold more copies of this book than any other employee at Legend Comics & Coffee using something I call “The Starman Pitch,” some of which you’ll find in the following review.
“And God help the bad and the wrong.”
“…I am Starman. There is NO other.”
“With his piper’s smile broadening, he steps off into space…and prepares to FLY.”
With that, two pages and a handful of sentences, James Robinson breathes life into Opal City–a place that will become an important character in its own right–and introduces the world to David Knight, the hero known as Starman.
One page later, David is shot and killed by an unseen assassin. So begins the first chapter of the Starman Omnibus.
Starman Omnibus Vol. 1 collects the first 17 issues of the DC Comics series created by James Robinson and Tony Harris. 1994 was a strange time for comics—one full of spider-clones and super-mullets. Yet Starman emerged as a bright light in a sea of grittiness and gimmicks. The series tells the story of Jack, black sheep of the Knight family and the youngest son of the Golden Age Starman. Jack is completely disinterested in his family’s heroic legacy, and is all too happy to let his brother David step into their father’s spandex. But, when his father’s greatest enemy organizes an attack that claims David’s life, Jack must take up the mantle of Starman to protect his father and his city.
Within these pages, James Robinson and Tony Harris give life to Opal City and its cast of characters: Ted Knight—the retired hero, the Shade—Jack’s immortal mentor, the O’Dares—the latest generation in a long tradition of law enforcement, Mikaal—the alien Starman of times past, and the most sympathetic incarnation of Solomon Grundy you will ever find. These characters become nearly as important a focus as Jack himself, and Robinson and Harris make them real. Robinson’s scripts paint a vivid picture of Jack Knight and the world around him—one that would be just as clear without the art to support it. The characters voiced by his dialogue are immediately recognizable and relatable. Tony Harris creates an art deco paradise with his rendition of Opal City, and each character’s distinct personality comes across through his designs. Though it has certainly improved over the past 15 years, Harris’ art still shines here. The care with which Robinson and Harris create these stories comes through on every single page.
As an individual volume in a larger series, the Starman Omnibus is a beautiful package. Its $50 price tag may seem a bit steep to a casual reader, but it holds the equivalent of three smaller trade paperbacks, providing excellent value for the money. The book has several pages of compelling back matter written by Robinson, offering a glimpse into the creation of the series. This installment ends in such a way that a reader would feel like they enjoyed a complete story, should they choose to not purchase further volumes.
As a long-time fan of Starman, it’s difficult for me to separate my feelings about volume one from what I know the rest of the series has in store. It’s a wonderful story about fathers and sons (and daughters), history, legacy, and what it takes to be a hero. As a standalone volume, Starman Omnibus Vol. 1 is a complete experience, but the true joy comes from the promise of things to come. I would not hesitate to recommend this book, and the rest of the series, to anyone–dedicated fans, casual readers, or someone who has never before had the pleasure of reading comics. I feel that this is the kind of comic that would turn ANYONE into a fan.
Joe Patrick is one of the hosts of the Two-Headed Nerd Comicast and Editor-in-Chief of http://twoheadednerd.wpengine.com. If he could have built a career out of correcting Matt Baum’s mistakes, he would have left you all behind years ago.