So what do you even say about this comic book that hasn’t already been said? I know that I already wrote a review of the first six books of James Robinson’s Starman series, but as I sat down to write this one, I was at a loss because I really do feel that I’ll be repeating myself here. It’s one of the brightest spots of the mid- to late-1990s and easily one of the greatest series that DC has ever put out.
But I guess I’ll get into what is in here. We start out with Jack Knight’s adventure in space, which spans two complete trade paperbacks. I remember when I read this for this first time in the early 2000s, my friend Paul, who’d loaned them to me, said that this storyline was where things got a little bogged down. While I can see that, I completely understood why Robinson spent so much time in space, as he gives the characters–Jack and Mikaal–time to develop (especially the latter, who discovers part of himself that had been completely lost). Plus, we get to see parts of the DC cosmic that had been relatively unexplored since probably the 1970s or 1980s, including a great “three Starfires” story involving the Space Cabbie and a nice “Jack Knight Meets Jor-El” story, both of which were so much fun.
The jewel of this back end of the series, though, is Grand Guignol, a huge story involving the ultimate play for power in Opal City on the part of a villain who appears to be The Shade but might be framing The Shade. Robinson manages to pull together all of the threads he has weaved since the series opened, and really leave very few, if any, questions unanswered. This is something that even some of the best and most celebrated writers have failed to do at times, although I’m sure that Robinson had “permission” to keep the title self-contained and was allowed to end it on his own terms instead of having editorial dictates or mandates (then again who knows … maybe he did?).
I’m trying to do a spoiler-free review of this, so I apologize for my vagaries here. I will say that the series feels like it comes to a complete and very satisfactory ending with some characters saying goodbye (even permanently) in ways that are poignant and even tearjerking. The story throughout feels like a modern day superhero comic should, with a contemporary feel (and tropes) but with a true appreciation (and even reverence) for what’s already come before (instead of rewriting older characters to fit what’s basically your paid fanfic).
The individual trade paperbacks that I have have been out of print for a very long time, although they can be found on discount shelves and pretty cheaply on eBay. DC printed omnibus editions as well about 10 years ago and is currently printing “Compendium” editions, which include all of the books that make up the Jack Knight story (some of which were not in the original trades, such as the four-issue Shade miniseries). Pick them up if you find them. You won’t be disappointed.
Keep, Sell, Donate, or Trash?