Although I had never heard of the characters before, plunging into this, the second volume in the ten-volume series, was as refreshing as it was rewarding. The writing is incredibly sharp. Within the opening pages the internal monologue of the young antique dealer and self-confessed geek Jack Knight (aka Starman) includes the moody description of the “copper sea” of fields which surround Opal City, interspersed with Jack’s own slightly paranoid obsessions about some of the people who live there. Then suddenly the genre turns to mystery and dark fantasy simultaneously as Jack reluctantly (and partially out of guilt) takes the role of hero, freeing some freakish people he meets from their oppressors. Jack’s emotions soar, and, as often happens in the 212-page volume, we see that Jack has been forced to grow through his experience, to get rid of false prejudice and take action to help the needy – and in all this, we realise he is not the typical DC superhero, whose moral compass we can trust to always face north. This young punk from the big city lives for what he can get, and the difference is fascinating. Even the action is a little quirky, and brilliant scrappy fun. The only downside of this volume is some extreme and probably unnecessarily brutal violence near the end.
I recently discovered that the excellent writer, James Robinson (about to finally return to work for DC on a new Justice League project), is well known for penning the whole ten-year lifespan of the comic (and bringing it to a great conclusion), and if the two volumes I have read so far are any measure of its quality I can not wait for more – especially as I’ve discovered there is a 2-part Batman/Starman/Hellboy crossover as well! Finally I think it is worth noting the unusual themes of Starman – one of the most striking is the idea of the “generation gap”, shown not only in Jack’s obsession with the past and with Opal City, but foremost in his relationship with his father. The way their worldviews jar is particularly well realised, Jack continually being surprised by the experiences and knowledge of his father, and often guessing him wrong. It is brilliant because it highlights how often in the busy western lifestyle, the younger generations are out of touch with what is important to their elders – who would have thought that idea would be shown up in a comic book?
If you can get hold of Starman you are in for a treat. Apparently, DC are about to reprint the entire run in some giant hardcover editions, so look out for that!