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Monday, 6 June 2011

Starman Omnibus volume 1

Story: James Robinson
Art: Tony Harris
Inks: Wade von Grawberger
Colors: Gregory Wright
Letters: John Workman, Bill Oakley, Gaspar Saladino
Publisher: DC

Other creative credits as follows:
Issue 6: Pencils by Teddy Kristiansen, inks by Chrstian Hojgaard, Bjarne Hansen and Kim Hagen
Issue 11: Art by Matt Smith
Issue 14: Art by Tommy Lee Edwards, Stuart Immonen, Tony Harris, Chris Sprouse, Andrew Robinson, Gary Erskine, and Amanda Conner with Inks by Wade con Grawbadger and Gary Erskine. 

Today's review is a guest post brought to you by Mothee.  Mothee is a comics fan, just graduated from film school and would like to be a writer.  You can find Mothee at the following places:
Twitter: @Mothee

What’s it about?
At it’s core Starman is about legacy. It’s about growing up. It’s about doing the things you don’t want to do. It’s about a father’s love for his son. It’s about taking the reigns of your own destiny. It’s about the finest work of fiction in any medium that I’ve ever read.
Jack Knight is a bit of a rebel. His father Ted was the original Starman and Jack’s brother David was killed while taking up that same mantle. Jack has no desire to be a hero but he can’t let his brother’s killer get away so he takes his father’s old rod and gravity belt and sets out to find the killer. Along the way he fails. A lot. He gets the revenge he’s looking for but at what price? And how can he walk away from the responsibilities that he’s unwillingly inherited?
What a killer first issue.

What’s good about it?
Let me preface this by sing this is my favorite comic. Hands down.

James Robinson has crafted a story here that feel less like a superhero comic and more like a piece of the life of the guy down the street. Jack Knight is a real person when you read this book. When Jack cries, you cry with him. When he’s ecstatic you’re thrilled for him. When he makes a poor decision you get mad at him.

You don’t just have Jack on this journey either, you have Ted; Jack’s father. He’s a scientist who loves his son and just wants him to succeed but doesn’t really have the words to convey the feelings of an old scientist to the ears of a young idealist.

You have the O’Dare family. They’ve been cops in the city for as long as there was a city.

You have Opal City itself. Some of the best stories in Starman as a whole focus on just the city, and those are some of the best issues.

And then you have The Shade. The Shade is the voice of reason and the voice of narration through virtually everything that happens in Jack’s world, and I’m grateful for him. Peppered throughout you will find excerpts of The Shade’s Journal. These journal entries serve to make Opal City and the world Jack exists in seem more real than the comic on it’s own ever could.
What’s bad about it?
In the reviews I’ve done so far for this site, this topic has always caused me difficulties. “Bad” is certainly relative, especially when I’m talking about my favorite book. So let me take a step back and look at it objectively.

I think that the “bad” that exists in Starman (volume 1 at least) would be that it’s not a straight up superhero book. Sure he has a costume, he hunts down villains and he saves the day, but that’s not the essence of what Starman (or Jack himself) is. People looking for a beat-em-up book would be better off looking for something like Brad Meltzer’s Justice League or Bendis’s New Avengers. Starman is very much a deep character piece. It’s an amazing piece of literature, but it’s not for everyone (though I recommend that everyone at least try it).

What’s the Art Like?
Tony Harris. Tony Harris is the main artist for most of the series. He leaves around volume 3 and his absence from the book is noticeable. You really get a chance to see his work grow and flourish here. Regarding his pencils, I hesitate to say "photo real" but the expressions are really well communicated through the art, and often quite heart wrenching.  In the issues where Tony Harris isn't doing the art, his presence is missed. He brings a look with it that clearly identifies the world. Like Mark Bagley with Ultimate Spider-Man or Mark Buckingham with Fables, the art in this early volume helps set the tone and define the look of the series
If I were to compare it to another artist, I’d have to say his work looks like a more polished Alex Maleev, but at the end of the day he’s just Tony Harris, and he’s the perfect artist for this book.
Other Infomation
Reading order is as follows, unfortunately prices and ISBNs aren't available for all volumes:
Starman Omnibus volume 1
Starman Ombnibus volume 2
Starman Omnibus volume 3
Starman Omnibus volume 4
Starman Omnibus volume 5
Starman Omnibus volume 6

Check out my blog: mothee.blogspot.com soon for a more in-depth look at all 6 of the Starman Omnibus books.

Editor's note: These books are highly recommended, in addition to what mothee has said above, I would also add that this is one of the few books to feature a bisexual character, in the form of Mikal Tomas.  For more information on this see this post I wrote for Prism Comics on how Mikal challenges the trend of bisexual erasure.  This storyline also introduces a prominent black character.


  1. I'm now reading this series for the first time and I am really enjoying it. As Mothee says, it's a piece of literature, not 'just' a comic. It goes far beyond what most people think of as comics. It's cleverly produced, the art, particualrly the colours, is astounding and some of the covers make me gasp with their beauty. For example, issue 37 http://www.comicvine.com/starman-37-talking-with-david-97/4000-44383/

    The series is mature in the best way possible - it's not full of sex and violence - it treats the characters and their lives as credible people deserving of respect. It's an incredibly piece of work and if I was to pick one comic to show someone what the medium can do, I'd pick this series. The creative team have outdone themselves here.

  2. I’ve just finished reading this series and it is magnificent!
    Other reviewers have commented that it feels like a novel, not a comic, and I can see where they are coming from. Novels are usually fairly long, have set chapters and are plotted very tightly with a definitive ending. Superhero comics, on the other hand, are usually written in smaller self contained arcs of 6 or so issues (collected into trade paperbacks, which read like short novels).

    When a writer does a series for 60 or more issues, the story arcs will flow on from each other, self refer and show character growth, but it is unusual for the issues to produced with an overall narrative.

    Perhaps this is because writers can be changed often or perhaps because the series needs to fit in with other big events happening in that publisher’s universe. Maybe the writer doesn’t want to build a grand narrative and is happy doing lots of smaller self contained story arcs.

    Whatever the reason, you don’t often get stories like Starman.
    James Robinson is given complete control and time enough to build a massive narrative where every issue and event forms a key part of the overall story. Nothing is there by chance. All interludes are important. All loose ends are tied up and every character has a role to play in the grand narrative.

    It provides a complete history of all heroes who have borne the name Starman – past, present and future. Individual issues form chapters in the story and we switch between the present day Starman to the World war 2 era Starman. Time and space travel gives us the opportunity to visit the Starmen of other worlds. These 80 issues provide an in-depth study of the Knight family, their friends and adversaries.

    This type of storytelling is rare and should be savoured. There are no mindless fights, no villains of the week. Jack Knight very rarely fights super criminals, and most of the series isn’t about superheroics. It’s Jack discovering his history and acting as casual defender of Opal City. It’s about Jack working as a trader of junk (or collectables if you prefer), it’s about the characters of Opal City – from the Shade to the O’Dare family and the City itself.

    This is where the more modern sueprhero comics can feel like they are failing - by switching writers every 6 issues or by forcing big crossovers, you get standalone arcs with no sense of a shared world or overall importance. New writers try to impose their personal stamp on a series and past events are retconned.

    The creed of bigger, brighter, shinier doesn't always make good stories and can feel like style over substance. James Robinson’s Starman is the antithesis of that. It is full of depth and has a quiet, unassumed cool borne of expertise, passion and love (much like Jack Knight himself). This series is excellent.