I’m missing issue #25 of the Will Payton Starman series, so I do not have the issue where he ditched what Shagg calls the “peanut butter and jelly costume” and changed to the black, red, and white costume that would finish out the series. I mean, I know that isn’t the only reason to own that issue and in issue #26, Will says that the old one got shredded and STAR Labs made him a new one, but I’ve always been the type of nerd who wants to see little changes like that. I don’t need a six-issue arc on it or anything, but just like when a title gets a new logo, I like to look for the changes.
Anyway, Roger Stern is only on the book for three of these issues, with Len Strazewski taking over with issue #29. We start with a great two-parter that features the Golden Age Starman … sort of. It’s David Knight in his father’s costume and he’s incredibly jealous that Will Payton has taken his hero name. Well, jealous because he’s being manipulated by Nimbus, his father’s old villain who was formerly known as The Mist. It’s a great way to feature the legacy of the character via two avenues–a new hero with the same name and the son of the original hero–especially when Ted Knight was off fighting in Valhalla as a results of the events of The Last Days of the Justice Society of America. James Robinson would do much more with David in his mid-1990s Starman series (and would do something with Will Payton as well that now reading this series I’m not 100% happy with), but I’m glad that it wasn’t all his idea and Stern set the table.
Stern’s run wraps up with a crossover into the Krisis of of the Krimson Kryptonite (aside: we couldn’t use C’s, guys so that it could be abbreviated CCK instead of … well …?) that I didn’t realize was part of that storyline until it was covered on “From Crisis to Crisis.” This was about a month into my comics collecting career, and the prior Superman storyline, “Soul Search,” was the first set of issues I bought. I only ever wound up buying the Action Comics and Superman issues, so I never read the entire story anyway (and even then, I had a second printing of Superman #50). In that particular issue, Emil Hamilton helps Starman hit Superman with a bunch of solar energy with the hopes that it will jump-start him (like a pair of booster cables) the same way it did when they fought the Parasite. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work, but Starman is able to pose as Supes for long enough to save a few people and swipe the Red-K from Lex Luthor, pissing him off in the process. It’s a pretty good story and I’m actually curious as to why it was only considered “Part 2A” and not a proper “Part 3”, because it certainly would have helped sales.
Anyway, I was bummed to see Stern go at first because while I didn’t not like Strazewski’s writing, it took a couple of issues for me to adjust. A Blob-type villain in issue #29 that also features the back-alley murder of Stern-era antagonist Dr. Melrose is passable and his “Seduction of Starman” four-parter in issues #30-33 are a slight improvement. In this one, while looking for a new home, Will has to try and save people from a housing development that’s built on an unsafe gas bubble. Unfortunately, a kid dies. Then, the billionaire developer hires Starman for charity work as part of a scam to embezzle money from his company so he and his assistant can get richer. His assistant, by the way, is a pretty blonde woman who literally seduces our hero–and it’s suggested that her perfume is somehow so intoxicating that it does the trick? I didn’t get that. Anyway, the enemy is not just the billionaire but the grandfather of the kid who had died–he’s a shaman who sends giant insects and other pests via ritual ceremonies. It’s pretty good, but could really have been six issues because it’s one of those storylines where it seems like he’s trying to cram way too much into the space he has.
But after a “meh” Batman appearance and a fill-in by Peter David, Keith Giffen, and Jason Pearson that is incredibly out of place (Starman in space fighting against Valor and … I can’t tell where it fits in, to be honest), we finish this set of comics with the first part of a very solid team-up with Phantom Lady and Rampage. Kitty Faulkner has asked Will to help a friend of hers with an alchemy experiment and in the middle of it, Phantom Lady comes flying into the guy’s lab, pursued by a giant robot whom captures our hero and fights off the two women. It’s a classic comic book plot and a reminder that I need to find issue #37 because that’s the conclusion and I want to know how he got out of it and who sent the robot after him.
Despite the change in creative teams (Dave Hoover takes over the art chores and while I really miss Tom Lyle’s artwork, it’s not too jarring of a change and he’s a solid artist), Starman continues to fly along and with only half a year or so’s worth of stories left, I’m curious to see how it wrapped up and led into Will’s ultimate fate in Eclipso: The Darkness Within.