Today, Taylor and Drew are discussing Starlight 2, originally released April 2nd, 2014
Taylor: In Western society we have a bad habit of forgetting the elderly. Indeed, when we aren’t forgetting them, the aged are bothering the young with their healthcare needs, their devotion to voting, and their being a reminder of what awaits us all later in life. I have to admit, one of my deepest fears is growing old and being alone with no one around giving a crap about this old fart. The gut-punch that was the first issue of Starlight explored the way a meaningful life can wither into one of loneliness and with it, a tale of redemption was set. In the second issue of the series, Duke McQueen — senior citizen and planet saver — laces up his boots once again to save Tantalus and it is an absolute delight.
McQueen lives a sad life on the planet Earth — a far cry from the life of fame and splendor he could have had on a different planet. When things look their darkest, a cloaked space ship shows up in McQueen’s front yard. It’s piloted by the 12 year old Krish Moor from Tantalus, the planet which McQueen saved some 30 odd years ago. Turns out that after McQueen saved the planet they enjoyed some great times. However, this peace was short-lived, as a race of conqueror-types called the Broteans moved in to exploit the resources of Tantalus. Krish has come to earth to recruit McQueen for the planet’s resistance movement. After a night of thinking, Duke decides to join the cause.
There’s a lot of fun things going on in this issue, but first and foremost, I just have to have to mention the delight that is Goran Parlov’s artwork. The issue has a nostalgic feel to it, making reference to the golden age of sci-fi and Flash Gordon and at times even goes so far as to strait out acknowledge it. Retro is “in” these days (which is a fascinating development predicted by science fiction ages ago) and Parlov, with an assist from writer Mark Millar, is quick to acknowledge that this fad is more cosmetic than anything.
Yup, the reason Krish’s ship looks old is because that just happens to be the way some people like it. It’s a triumph of form over function but one that has a place in this series. It kind of throws a wrench into the whole design of the comic, making it known to the reader that yes, Parlov is borrowing from the days of sci-fi old, but god damn it you’re still going to love it even if it’s used and rusty. I love this acknowledgement because it shows us that Parlov and Millar have faith in their readers intelligence. Basically, we’re all in on the joke.
But Parlov isn’t just a one-trick pony. He has the ability to tell a story in way that’s natural and occasionally beautiful. While the facial expressions on all the characters are memorable, I found Krish’s expressions to be particularly emotive. The kid’s face bends and twists its way through so many emotions throughout the issue that it seems like he never has the same expression from one panel to the next. Aside from this, Parlov does an excellent job of conveying emotion without the use of dialogue. In fact, the climatic moment of this issue is wordless — and essentially perfect.
In these deceptively simple four panels we know without a doubt that Duke is going to leave Earth to save Tantalus. He’s weighing the possibility of death by violence versus death by boredom and sadness. It’s a simple choice for Duke, even if he is too old for this shit.
Of course Millar has his own part to play in the construction of this delightful story. I love the backdrop that he’s created for Duke. It’s rich and interesting, yet simple and fun. A perfect example of this comes in the form of the threat challenging Tantalus. The Broteans (Bros!) have come in search of resources and for the time being are a faceless evil.
I almost don’t want to learn more about these shadowy figures. They fit into the archetype of what a space-badguy is supposed to be and in some ways it would be sad to see them break the mold. However, similar to the acknowledgment that some spaceships just look old, I’m willing to bet there’s more to the Broteans than first appears. Whatever the case may be I’m absolutely hooked. I can’t wait to see who they are, what Duke does when he meets them, and what will become of Tantalus. It’s tantalizing!
Drew, are you as thrilled by this issue as I am? For a long time I wondered why so few comics focused on straight up space adventures and now I have one that seems to be delivering on all fronts. Can the series keep this up?
Drew: The space-opera adventure serial is such a classic format (ranging from Buck Rogers to Star Trek), that I have little doubt that a throwback homage will find plenty to mine. Heck, Star Wars was conceived as a throwback homage, which I suppose sets the bar both impossibly high and impossibly low for this series. I have faith that I’ll enjoy this series, though, so maybe it’s best to avoid that comparison altogether.
I, too, am fond of the space-age-via-1950s imagery, and I love the idea that that is indeed how alien technology looked 50 years ago, and that the spaceship is as retro to Krish as it is to us. But I also think Parlov has given us some clues as to what Tantalean society might look like today. Just take a look at Krish’s hair.
We may associate that coloration and style with a number of things — Final Fantasy, various Anime movies and shows — but I’m going to suggest that Parlov is reaching back to their shared ancestor (and sibling to western comics), Manga. I have to admit to having limited experience with Manga, but the character designs (especially that of the Broteans) seems to fit right in with that experience. More subtly, I think Parlov may also be paying tribute to the storytelling and pacing of Manga. Again, my experience with Manga is small, but I often see it praised for it’s silent, reflective passages, much like the sequence Taylor included above.
It’s a truly clever idea — I think there’s a sizable overlap between the aesthetics of Manga and those old adventure serials, giving Millar two traditions to mine simultaneously, while offering him the peculiarities of either to retreat to if he sees fit. Will there be robots (giant or otherwise)? Will there be climactic chase scene on some kind of space scooter (potentially accompanied by hawkmen)? There’s suddenly twice as much room for insanity while still playing the homage game, which is perhaps paramount for this series.
The other key homage isn’t to any genre in particular, but to the classic idea of the retired hero returning to action. What has me excited about that is that I suspect the adventure serial will largely be represented by Duke’s past adventures, while the present day will mostly resemble the futuristic dystopias of many Manga stories. That’s mostly just suspicion at this point — we haven’t had a good look at modern Tantalus yet — but based on Krish’s design and his comments on the retro design of his ship, it’s easy to think that this theory might not be too far off. Having Duke with feet in both the past and the present will allow Millar and Parlov to riff on the similarities and differences between these two stiles.
Really though, all I needed from the issue is the small victory of Duke flying the ship over his hometown — where nobody ever believed his stories about traveling to Tantalus in the first place. It’s a moment of joy and vindication, and that we can enjoy that with him so early in the series is a great sign for his characterization. I can’t wait to see what happens next.
For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page. Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore. If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to Comixology and download issues there. There’s no need to pirate, right?