I’ve been hearing for years from friends, co-workers, and the internet in general that I should read the DC Comics series Starman. The series premiered just over 15 years ago now, and enjoyed an 82-issue run that ended back in 2001. It took ten years from the end of the series for me to finally decide it was time to give it a read, and now I’m working my way through it issue by issue.
After an opening five-issue storyline and several one- and two-issue stories, “Sins of the Child” is the second extended storyline of the Starman title. In this storyline, Jack Knight, the newly-christened Starman, protector of Opal City, squares off against The Mist, the daughter of the original villain of that name who was the arch-foe of Ted Knight, Jack’s father and the original Starman.
The plot of the story is fairly straight-forward. Jack Knight is abducted and forced to run a sort of gauntlet that The Mist has set up for him. Ted Knight is also attacked, as are Mikaal Tomas (an alien who does not speak English) and Solomon Grundy (a hulking zombie and former villain who, so far in this series, has been portrayed as a docile simpleton), who are acquaintances of Jack’s. Additionally, The Mist unleashes chaos across Opal City in the form of armed gangs and thugs. Ultimately Ted Knight, Mikaal, and Grundy all escape or defeat their attackers. Jack runs the gauntlet and meets The Mist at the end. Gearing up for a battle, The Mist instead lets Jack go, but promises that she will be back some day.
The most interesting, and I thought entertaining, part about this storyline is how it’s structured. The story takes place over the course of one day, and each issue shows you that day from a different character’s or set of characters’ perspective. The first issue follows the first half of Jack’s day, in which he is abducted and placed into the labyrinth. The second issue follows Ted’s day as he is attacked by Dr. Phosphorous, a supervillain who is working with The Mist. The third follows multiple residents of Opal City, including the O’Dare family, all of whom are cops, and The Shade, a seemingly immortal character who at this point I’m still having trouble defining as either hero or villain, but who defines himself as ‘a concerned citizen’ of Opal. Part four follows Mikaal and Grundy through their abduction and eventual escape. Part five circles back around to the second half of Jack’s day.
When I first read the initial part of the story, I thought it felt a bit fragmented, as we only get snippets of scenes and parts of The Mist’s rampage through Opal. Only after reading the whole storyline is the reader able to construct a full picture of what that day was like. It would be interesting to take scissors to each issue and put it all into chronological order, like the DVD Easter egg on Memento that shows the film forwards instead of backwards. It would probably take away from the enjoyment of the reading experience, but it would be interesting nonetheless.
The art on this storyline, a majority of which is by series artists Tony Harris and Wade Von Grawbadger (issue 14 was drawn by multiple artist teams, a different team for each character’s ‘day’), is certainly a high point. I’d only ever experience Tony Harris’s work on the excellent Ex Machina series that ran in the mid-‘00s. It’s interesting to go back and look at what his early art looked like, and in this instance, while his linework is not entirely different from what it ended up looking like in the later series, it’s definitely looser and more energetic in Starman. Harris’s pencils are perfectly complimented by Von Grawbadger’s inks, which help set the tone for the storyline. Before the violence begins, it’s a sunny day and there are very few shadows. As things get progressively worse, though, the blacks get heavier, the lines thicker. Von Grawbadger is a very versatile inker, and it shows in these issues.
From a technical/craft standpoint, I really enjoyed these issues. The story itself, though, felt a bit off for me, at least as far as Jack’s day went. He makes it all the way through the gauntlet, and then The Mist just…lets him go. It almost felt like Robinson didn’t feel like writing a fight sequence, so he just had The Mist monologue for a bit about how she and Jack are going to be archenemies and how she’s going to kill him some day…but not yet. After four issues of solid action, this ending felt extremely anti-climactic. I’m sure it’s going to end up being part of a larger arc between Starman and The Mist, but as a standalone story it just fell flat.
Overall I enjoyed reading this story, even if the plot left me cold. The storytelling techniques Robinson used, combined with solid art from Harris and Von Grawbadger, made for a good reading experience. I’m excited to see where the rest of the series goes from here.