You notice two things about Starslayer #18 right away: it’s a full-length story that teams our heroes up with Grimjack (who is about to get his own book) and it’s printed on better paper, which if it isn’t Baxter paper is pretty close. The price hadn’t changed, though.
We open with Torin at the prison and going right after Ariosto, the head of whatever prison he’s been put into and is taking on a huge brute named Sphinx. This confrontation is what leads to Torin being taken to the cell we saw him in the previous issue and is all being told in flashback via Grimjack’s narration. We then cut to the present where Grimjack is holding Crayne up by the collar and shaking him down dor money. Chris and Tamara are really the only reason that Crayne doesn’t get the absolute crap kicked out of him and when they offer to pay his debts, Grimjack says that the price is $100,000. That’s money they don’t have, but they do have the Jolly Roger and that’s enough to pay it.
So with the Jolly Roger in his name, he leads the crew to Castle Arisoto and he comes upon Torin and his motley crew of prisoners facing off against the guards while Chris and Tamara run interference in another part of the castle. Grimjack moves in, kills the guards, and he and Torin team up to get out of the place. Of course it’s not that easy because Chris and Tamara get themselves captured by Arisoto and Sphinx.
What results is a really well-drawn brawl between our heroes, castle guards, and a giant stone creature. There’s magic, they’re people being thrown out of tower windows and being impaled on spikes, and in the end the prisoners are all triumphantly liberated.
Truman’s art is outstanding and is helped by the better paper, which is not something you can say for all of the artwork of this time. I’ve seen Baxter paper series where the artwork seemed very off because it was too bright and “sat on” the paper as opposed to being “absorbed into” the regular comics newsprint (Eduardo Barretto’s work on The New Teen Titans is a great example of this). Here, because Truman’s art is so ink-heavy and dark, the paper compliments it. It’s such a great issue.
The ending, by the way, is also one of those great team-up endings. Grimjack sells the Jolly Roger back to Torin for a buck, and then heads off into his own title. Tamara is a little upset at first but Torin then offers her the title of co-captain and we get a great final page with Torin, Sam, Chris, and Tamara holding aloft their swords to the prisoners they liberated and saying, “Are you with me?!” to cheers. Oh, and Crayne is killed in a back alley of Cynosure because everything has finally caught up to him.
So our new status quo is established … almost. More on that next issue.