Collecting issues 1-6 of the (presumably) limited series written by Mark Millar and illustrated by Goran Parlov (with colors by Ive Svorcina), Starlight tells the story of an aged Flash Gordon-esque interplanetary hero that’s brought back to a far off planet to save a society once again. Is it good?
Starlight TPB Volume 1 (Image Comics)
It’s always funny to me when people accuse critics of being too “biased.” After all, we’re human, aren’t we? Of course we’re biased! But the truth is that, prior to reading Starlight I did have a strong bias against Mark Millar. Aside from some JLA stories that he co-wrote, all I had read from him was Marvel’s Civil War, which I didn’t enjoy very much, but not to the extent that I should have avoided reading Millar’s work entirely. Yet that’s what I did, not so much because of Civil War, but because of the things that other critics were saying about Millar.
Starlight is not a book that these critics could have expected Millar to write. It’s not cynical, it’s competently written, and although, yes, it is being adapted into a film, it still works as a comic rather than simply a glorified series of storyboards. Have I been missing out all this time?
Starlight has a familiar and in some ways predictable plot, but it’s still serviceable. Duke McQueen was once the hero of a far-off planet where he risked life and limb to save its people from a tyrant. When he returns home to Earth, though, nobody believes his claims of his exploits, so he loses the respect of everyone on the planet, including his own children. All seems hopeless after his wife, the only person that ever took him seriously, dies of breast cancer. When a boy in a space ship lands on his lawn and asks Duke to save the same planet once again, Duke is given the chance to feel vital again.
The themes of aging and purpose give a unique emotional core to a story that may otherwise be run of the mill sci-fi. Even at its most familiar, there’s a sense of heart and liveliness to the work that keeps it from feeling stale or cliché.
One area in which the critics may be right is the accusation that Millar is never as talented as his artistic collaborators. That’s not to say that the writing is poor here, but simply that the art is THAT good. I’m not the first critic to say that Goran Parlov channels Moebius in these pages, but he also brings a style of his own that’s as emotionally affecting as it is imaginative. Special attention must be given to colorist Ive Svorcina, who has to be the most underrated colorist working today. He’s probably better known for his painterly colors on books like Thor: God of Thunder, but here he shines, quite literally, with a brighter and more cartoonish palette.
Is It Good?
Starlight is fun, touching, and beautifully drawn. It may not be particularly original, but if you’re looking for a sci-fi romp you won’t be disappointed. Don’t wait for the movie.