Dreadstar #2, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 17, 18, 24, 31, 32, 35, 36, 37, 46

So back in November when my LCS had its “Fill a Shortbox for $40” sale, I grabbed me a shortbox and brought all of those books home. In fact, the majority of the books that I’ve been reading and reviewing this month were from that sale. Among them were just a stack of Dreadstar books. I’d heard of Jim Starlin’s creator-owned science fiction adventure series and at one point in the Nineties bought the first issue of the miniseries that Malibu published when it launched its short-lived Bravura line. While there wasn’t a full run of the book in the bins, I figured that I grabbed enough of these to compile enough of the story (and fill in the holes via Googling). Unlike Starslayer, which I had waited to mostly collect before reading and King Conan (for which I am doing the same and only need three issues to finish the run), I figured that this would be enough for me to decide if I need the rest.

My experience with Jim Starlin is not as extensive as some of my friends’, mainly because I have an enormous blind spot for much of what Marvel published throughout its history that was not the X-Men or bits and pieces of Spider-Man. Aside from The Infinity Gauntlet and Infinity War, I have never read any of the Marvel cosmic stuff; as a result, much of what I’ve read of Starlin’s work has come from DC. Gilgamesh II, Cosmic Odyssey, and his Batman work (including the outstanding prestige format series The Cult with Berni Wrightson) are my touchpoints. So I was going into this sort of blind, although with the expectation that it’s outer space and Jim Starlin so it is probably pretty good.

From the outset, I could tell the book was really well put together. Starlin was on art and he’s got that great solid Bronze Age style like you’d see from Dave Gibbons, George Perez, Rich Buckler, or Don Newton. The writing is also really tight in the early issues. I didn’t have the first one, but over the course of the first year or so’s worth of issues, I knew what was going on. It bears a bit of a resemblance to Starslayer, as you have someone from the Milky Way Galaxy who is now fighting in a far-off land a long time after he originally lived (although in the case of Starslayer, our hero lived during Ancient Roman times), and it’s also a lot like Star Wars. In fact, that kind of turned me off at the beginning. I’d just read Star Hunters and started to ask myself “Do I really need to read another book that’s chasing Star Wars?”

Thankfully, the story sucked me in as Dreadstar and Company (his band of rebels) try to free the galaxy from the clutches of two warring factions–the Monarchy and the Church of Instrumentality. The Monarchy kind of becomes the “good guys” or at least the lesser-of-two-evils allies with the Pope of the Church becoming the series’ big bad. Dreadstars group of Merry Space Men resemble something closely to DC’s Omega Men, who had already made appearances in Superman’s books as well as just come off a big New Teen Titans storyline. I’m not saying that one ripped off the other; they were both clearly responding to outer space story trends and who knows, Marv Wolfman and Jim Starlin might have shared ideas back and forth. Oh, and I also have to note that the “Leia” character, a blind telepath named Willow, looks so much like Scarlett from G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero that it’s kind of distracting (but in a good way).

During its initial run of issues with Marvel’s Epic line, Dreadstar tells a long-form story of these freedom fighters, and that ends with the initial issues for First Comics (where it ran until issue #64, ceasing publication only a few months before First closed its doors). After that, we get a time jump where Dreadstar and Company are bounty hunters in the wake of the fall of the Church of Instrumentality, as well as a new art team in the form of Luke McDonnell and Val Mayrick. Peter David eventually takes over the title, but even though I was enjoying the book in its newer version, I felt it was meandering.

But I will say that I even though I’m not going to hold onto these or collect the rest, I did enjoy this book. It’s a really solid adventure that starts off looking great and you’ll find yourself reading several issues in a sitting.

Keep, Sell, Donate, or Trash?


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