Fathers and Suns

Starman Volume 1: Sins of the Fathers: written by James Robinson; illustrated by Tony Harris and Wade Von Grawbadger (1994): James Robinson and Tony Harris’s extremely enjoyable take on ‘Legacy’ heroes, as the younger son of the Golden-Age superhero Starman reluctantly takes up the heroic mantle after his older brother dies on the first day on the job.

New Starman Jack Knight, son of Ted, eschews the red costume and finned head of the hero’s traditional garb for a leather jacket and smoked-glass goggles. And he’d generally rather be working on his “real” life as a buyer and seller of collectibles. But his brother’s murderer(s) must be caught, and his father really is too old for this stuff.

Starman was one of DC Comics’ most acclaimed superhero series when it ran from 1994-2001. It’s a humourous, heartfelt delight with a healthy helping of Father Issues. Starman’s home base of Opal City, another one of DC’s fictional cities for heroes, is an eclectic place. It’s proud of its resident hero Starman.

Jack Knight, like his super-scientist father, has no superpowers of his own. He fights crime with the Cosmic Rod, an invention of his father’s that store all sorts of cosmic radiation that can then be applied by the rod in various ways, though most usually to allow Starman to fly or to hit a villain with a blast of energy.

Opal City also has an occasionally heroic guardian in the person of Golden-Age villain The Shade, who now makes his (immortal, non-aging) home in Opal City and hates to have his peace disturbed. The Shade would grow to rival Starman in fictional popularity. In this first volume, Jack must face an old villain of his father’s, The Mist, one of DC’s odder Golden-Age supervillains. I mean, he’s basically a guy who can turn into a fogbank. A murderous old man with a grudge against Starman who can turn into a fog bank, that is.

Tony Harris’s art is quirky and expressive, though the faces sometimes lack a certain continuity when it comes to characters. Jack especially takes awhile to settle down into a recognizably repeatable presence. But there’s also real energy to Harris’s layouts, and to his depiction of the quasi-mystical abilities of characters like The Mist and The Shade. This really seems like Robinson’s labour of love, though, a comic book about a superhero who collects and sells comic books, among other things. Recommended.

Starman Volume 2: Night and Day: written by James Robinson; illustrated by Tony Harris and Wade Von Grawbadger and others (1994-95): More fun with Starman Jack Knight as he runs across a sinister carnival, receives career advice from sympathetic anti-hero The Shade, and faces his first Legacy villain, the now-mist-powered daughter of Golden-Age Starman villain The Mist. Apparently, she’s just Mist. No definite article.

One of the numerous minor characters to also be called Starman also shows up here, as does bizarre, long-time Golden-Age Green Lantern villain Solomon Grundy, here in dire need of a haircut. Fun art, mostly fun (though somewhat bloody) stories. Recommended.

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