Starman (1988) #1-12

starman_vol_1_1Okay, before I start this, I have to laugh and say that every time I start blogging through a series or run I’ve read, I think about where I got these particular comics, then realize it was probably in one of two places: a massive sale at my LCS or a convention.  In this case, it’s the former, as while I owned one issue of this back in the early 1990s (the War of the Gods crossover issue), I’d never read any other issue nor went back and collected it.  But there most of it was, sitting in the bins during “Shortboxtober” a couple of years ago.  I don’t know what the math is on it, but it’s likely that I paid something like a quarter for each of them.

Now, I don’t have the whole series and while I’m blogging about it, I am going to try to fill the few holes that are there (I’m literally missing three issues).  I just couldn’t wait.  Plus, I did a Twitter poll and my followers told me to start reading this over Star Trek and V. 

So here we are.  A series that I’d more or less ignored back when it was being published and grabbed because I’d heard really good things about it and it was very, very cheap.  Will it be as good as they say?  Well, if this first year’s worth of comics are any indication, the answer to that will be yes.

If you’re unfamiliar with this iteration of the Starman character, this is Will Payton, who has no relation to Ted Knight or any other previous version of Starman, and who gets his powers through an experiment gone wrong.  You see, he was hiking in the middle of nowhere when he was hit by a beam from space.  That beam was from a satellite that was going to be used to power up several other people (who then become the Power Elite, a team of foes he faces off against in a couple of issues).  Will loses the better part of a month of his life and when he is found, it seems that he’s dead and comes back to life.  Not only that, he suddenly has powers.

It’s a very Marvel origin, but Roger Stern has a fairly deep Marvel resume, and he’s also writing at a time when DC was playing with some classic Marvel tropes in its lineup of comics.  This is the era of Invasion! (which the book ties into for two issues), which was a fun alien invasion crossover full of fights and absent of the philosophical conversations and whackjob quasi-religious stuff that plagued Legends and Millennium (and I liked Legends).  It’s also absent of the need to constantly be tied into the rest of DC’s continuity.  Yes, there’s the aforementioned crossover issue and a two-parter where Starman takes on Blockbuster and we get what amounts to a pretty gratuitous Batman team-up (seriously, Bruce is just kind of there to provide exposition as to who Blockbuster is), but for the most part, Will is able discover his powers and establish his career as a hero on his own away from much of the DCU.

That’s one element that makes the first twelve issues of this book work, as is Starman’s power set.  He can shift his face, fly, shoot beams from his hands, is really strong … it’s just a great concept for a character.  And yes, the “peanut butter and jelly costume” (as Shagg calls it) is definitely of its time, but I don’t even mind because I really enjoyed the whole look.

Okay, so what actually happens in these twelve issues?  Well, I mentioned Blockbuster and at one point I did talk about at least one of the Invasion! crossover issues, so I’ll skip over those and focus a little on the more internal nature of the title.  Will Payton becomes Starman, is discovering his powers, and we see the scientists who were conducting the experiments going after him in order to capture him and experimenting on him.  At one point, they send Bolt after him and at another point, they do get him and we see that the meaning behind the “experiments” is to partially figure out what makes him run and partially siphon off his powers.

The latter part of the experiments lead to confrontations with the Power Elite, which are a good set of villains for Starman–think of the moments in Captain America: Civil War when we have flashbacks to the Winter Soldier fighting the other Soviet super soldiers and that’s kind of what this is.  Stern, who wrote some great Superman books around this time, tells a tight story and even gives us a solid supporting character in Will’s sister Jayne.  In fact, I really liked that he had a sister as well as other family members, such as his mother.  It makes him more of an everyman character and grounds him in our world.

With that being said, I’m going to hold off judgment on the ratings until I actually finish my run (and maybe find the other issues).   And I’ll probably review these in smaller batches so that I can be more specific.  But for a first year of a series, this was extremely solid and a lot of fun.

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