The second Mark Millar book of the week, and as much as I enjoy Jupiter’s Legacy, I think Starlight has it beat. I like Millar when he goes for shock value more than most, but for me, his work is best when it’s a bit more poignant and heart-felt. That’s why the likes of 1985 and Superior are among my favourite works of his, and it’s also why Starlight might eventually join them. The big pitch here is basically Millar homaging Flash Gordon, and exploring what would happen to a character like that after he returns to Earth, and to a normal life, and then roping him back into space as an old man. It’s a strong idea, and even though too many of Millar’s ideas lately are too blatant in ripping off their influences, the execution is what really counts, and in this first issue, he executes it well.
Our Flash Gordon analogue here is Duke McQueen, a test pilot who was transported to the Alien world of Tantalus, where he had a load of adventures, deposed an evil emperor and romanced a princess. But in the end, Duke returned home to his Earth-Girl, Joanne, who he married and settled down with. The issue begins on the day of Joanne’s funeral, where she’s died of cancer, and really, the whole issue brilliantly juxtaposes the light, fun world of Duke’s adventures in space, with the reality, both happy and sad of living on Earth. So, we see that Duke and Joanne had a good, strong marriage, but after her death, we see that Duke is now alone. His two sons are too busy to come visit him on the anniversary of their mother’s death, and little kids in the supermarket make fun of him for his claims that he went to space.
Perhaps the most powerful scene of the issue was Duke stood in his study, looking at the various framed newspaper stories about him on the wall, and reminiscing. After his return, people said he was crazy, but it was all true, and he has the alien jump-suit there hanging up to prove it. Much like how Jupiter’s Legacy felt similar to The Incredibles, so did this, Duke even looks a bit like Mr Incredible.
The issue ends with Duke looking out of his window at the rain, where he sees a strange outline, he heads out to look, and it turns out to be a space-ship! Yep, it looks like Duke McQueen has to head back out into space.
I think this was a really strong opening issue, yes, the details we get about Duke’s past adventures are very broad, but that’s not a problem, the stuff Millar is homaging is all very familiar, and it’s best to keep things generic. The real meat is in the Earth-based scenes, where Millar deftly establishes a loving marriage, before taking it away tragically. You really feel for Duke, and how alone he is, and by the end, the arrival of an Alien is a real ‘fuck yeah’ moment where the fun can begin.
Goran Parlov is the artist here, and, although I’m not too familiar with his work, it does look fantastic, straddling the line brilliantly between the cheesy 1950s sci-fi scenes and the real-life scenes. His line-work reminds me of Joe Kubert, and I especially like how the young Duke and the old Duke are still very much the same person, despite the age gap. I highly recommend this issue, it’s not the violent, shocking, rude , rape-filled Mark Millar comic (the most violent thing in this issue is a kick to the balls) , this is a quieter, more introspective series with real heart to it. If you like The Incredibles, or Flash Gordon in general, pick it up.