This is it. Four issues left in a run that I didn’t think was going to go as quickly as it did. When I started Starslayer with Mike Grell’s run, I figured that I would read a few issues here and there and eventually get around to the entire thing. But since leftover Badger comics weren’t hanging over my head and I found the first half of the run engaging, I was committed pretty quickly, even if it did peter out as the series went on.
John Ostrander kind of says this in his note in the final issue. When issue #31 begins, we have a new artist in Jon Eddings, who is billed as a “fantastic new penciller” and he’s done by issue #34, with Ostrander saying:
We’ve had FIVE pencillers on Starslayer. Each of them … are talented artists and each have brought something to Starslayer, but five pencillers over 34 issues are three too many. As a newcomer, Jon Eddings was a gamble. We felt he had the talent, but if Jon didn’t work out, we knew we’d have to cancel the book. Starslayer couldn’t tolerate another change of artist.
To make a long story short, John didn’t work out. This is the last issue of Starslayer.
This reads less of placing the blame on the artist and more of a roundabout way of saying that the book was in trouble and they hoped a new artist with some streamlined direction (hence the wrapping up of loose ends in the prior issue) would help revive it. Alas, it didn’t and we get a concluding four-parter that sees Torin take on Morrigan in a final confrontation.
It starts with “Legends” in issue #31, a recap of who our characters are through stories told throughout the stars by random people. It’s a jumping on issue that shows the potential that Jon Eddings had as penciller–they’re very close to what Tim Truman and Mike Grell had done on the series in its early days and we get a history of the book as well as a quick spotlight on a few new crew members, such as Patriccia D’Orsini, who the Jolly Roger crew had taken with them at the end of issue #30. It doesn’t set up too much except to remind us that Torin still wears Morrigan’s necklace and that the crew is still traveling the cosmos.
They then come upon a derelict ship in issue #32 which is crewed by a lone dog-like creature who then guides them to his homeworld. On that world, the crew is captured and we see that Mad Thom (aka Black Thom) is this is what will lay the groundwork for the final confrontation with Morrigan in issue #34. Torin, the avatar of death teams up with Sargon, the avatar of war, and other avatars to face the death goddess. Seeing this scares off the crew, who no longer wants to follow him because they feel that he will kill them as well and they leave … well, until they come back at the last minute.
Speaking of coming back, Morrigan has brought back Bragg, the villain from the very first storyline who was the head of the Earth council to serve as her new avatar, and he and Torin fight before Torin and his fellow avatars can finally defeat the death goddess. In the end, our hero wins, his curse is lifted, and Morrigan’s death leads to the resurrection of our sun and the rebirth of the solar system. The Jolly Roger’s crew has new worlds to explore and new adventures to have.
It’s definitely a “we have to wrap this up because we’ve been canceled” storyline, but Ostrander put his back into it and it’s well-written. I can see, though, where he was talking about the disappointment of his penciller. Eddings starts out strong on issues #31 and 32 but by 33, I think that inker Mark Nelson (who’s not a bad artist in his own right because he’s outstanding on Dark Horse’s first Aliens series) was doing most of the heavy lifting and it may have been a rush job because it doesn’t have the detail they were putting into those first two issues.
Like I said in an earlier review, I am curious as to why First Comics and some of its contemporaries crashed and burned just as Image was picking up steam in the early 1990s, and I need to do more research on it. This is a book that seemed like could have thrived with older audiences that were going to comic shops; in fact, I could see it finding a niche audience via some of the many independent publishers that are out there now. I’d be up for seeing a sequel series or a remastered/director’s cut reprint of Ostrander’s run the way that Grell did with his run later in the decade (which is available in trade and on Comixology because it was published through Valiant, and I may check it out).
These are, as Professor Alan would say, a “quarter bin deal”, the type that you will consciously look for in a cheap bin after getting your first taste, but won’t try to pay premium back issue bin prices for. So if you have the means, see if you can track some down.
Keep, Sell, Donate, or Trash?
*That is, I want to finish the series and may revisit it when the time comes.