Starlight is a fine comic.
…you’re still here? You want a little more? Okay then. Starlight is a fine comic. The spitting image of competence, in fact. Really solid art, decent writing, exciting colors, mildly interesting characters…it does everything right. Or at least right enough. But I just wish something stood out a little bit more.
For the most part it’s been very safe. Things are lining up exactly as you’d expect in a colorful space opera. The issue opens with our villain, Lord Kingfisher, chewing scenery and executing good guys as he surveys his newly-built Castle Without Doors* (because doors are for pussies I guess?). He does a very good Darth Vader impression, killing a captured rebel with a pair of telekinetic gloves and sporting a flowing cape and silly headwear, but overall he’s the weakest part of the comic. He’s written a little too evil for evil’s sake.
Our aging hero Duke McQueen arrives on the scene to start stirring up some rebellion, but runs into trouble when he sees a man getting mugged by some Broteans, the oppressors of the peaceful people of Tantalus acting as a sort of military police. Duke disarms the muggers and turns their beam weapons back on them, which has the effect of neatly separating their limbs and torsos from the rest of their bodies in a shocking panel. This is another problem I had with the issue and goes to show that genre can be both a help and a hindrance to a story: so the whole ordeal supposedly happens inside of a ring of what looks like a hundred people, but Duke has no problems firing away with an extremely deadly laser weapon that seems to cut clean through the MP’s like nothing. We know he doesn’t hurt any bystanders because, hey, he’s the hero of a space opera and the hero doesn’t kill anybody who doesn’t deserve it. But it’s something that takes you out of the comic and makes you think that if this were a real world situation, Duke would have probably killed more than a few innocents and might be seen as a bit of crazed gunman. The genre constraints ease our minds with the knowledge that Duke, with a steady aim and sure trigger-finger, wouldn’t hit a target he didn’t intend while simultaneously frustrate those of us who like to think a little bit harder about what we’re reading.
Along with these nit-picky issues, I feel like I know where this series is going and I feel like I’ve seen it all before, but there’s just enough in Starlight to keep me interested issue to issue. I like the character of Duke McQueen; taking Buck Rodgers/Flash Gordon archetype of the athletic, chisel-jawed protagonist and aging him way past his prime is certainly a unique spin. The art by Goran Parlov is simple and clean in detail but epic in scope. And after being featured in a just single page, I’m already loving the character design of Tilda Starr. She’s like if Han Solo had a little more color, some sweet knee-high boots, and a pair of fingerless gloves (and I’m a sucker for fingerless gloves). I’m definitely interested to see where Millar and Parlov take her character next month, assuming she doesn’t turn out to be a dollar-store Han Solo knockoff.
And I really do hope that this comic can break out of its derivative trappings and become its own special beast. It’s nice to see an homage to the pulpy sci-fi series of the past, but right now that sentiment is more like a crutch than a boon.
*So you don’t have doors on your castle because “doors are for men who fear their enemies, and all my enemies are dead”? Like, I get it, that’s supposed to super bad-ass man, but what if you, ya know, make some more enemies? Doors are going to come in handy pretty freaking quick when all it takes for successful siege is to walk into your chambers while you’re dropping a deuce and shooting you in your face. And what about inclement weather? I don’t know much about the climate on Tantalus, but if they have anything resembling seasons or storms, you might be regretting the whole anti-doors stance. Just sayin’.