So, I think this review will mark my official ejection from the Starlight express. It’s been a fun, if not exceptional ride, but I think I see where Millar is going with this book, and I honestly don’t feel like I need to stick around any longer to see it get there. This issue wasn’t bad, but by now, this series is by-the-numbers: 1 imprisoned human hero + 1 alien childhood tragedy + 7 jet-packs + 1 armed underground resistance = SCI FI COMIC BOOK! That’s not to say there isn’t comfort in its cliché, but what was so great about this book at its start was the emotive human element brought to bear by the harrowing tragedy of hardened old-school bad ass, Duke McQueen.
We do get glimpses of that here this time, though. In fact, when Duke gets his hand on an old (and inanimate) friend, which sends both his nostalgia and his sense of loss into overdrive, it is by far the most intriguing character moment of the book (even taking into consideration its swerve ending). However, I just wish that particular connection to his past would more overtly drive Starlight, rather than just stick around as a lingering afterthought. Otherwise, this is just Old Man Gordon, and that’s fine, but this had the chance to be something different, and it’s really sad to see that slip away.
Even the new characters, like the apparently diabolical Admiral Pindar, stereotypically surly right-hand baddie, fail to impress. Neither his role, nor that of Tilda Starr (swarthy lady resistance leader) could have possibly been more predictable in this story, and like I said, the more characters like this that are injected into the series, the more you can already map out where it’s going to end. Maybe I’m wrong and it’ll turn around, but by that point, it’ll be too late for me, because I’ve completely lost interest.
Another of the tired tropes in this book comes in the form of Wes Adams, who last time I called Rockabilly Spock (Spockabilly?), as well as contrived and completely out of place. Well, without meaning to spoil much, it turns out I was right in some ways. And yet, even though his character was perhaps the biggest surprise of this entire issue, and the ramifications he presents provides a flurry of hope near the end that Starlight could save itself, I still doubt it will.
Unfortunately, this has simply become another Millar phone-in as he waits for it to get picked up into a movie (which, actually, I think it already has), doing as much name-dropping as he can before he quits. That’s another thing that bugs me about this issue from the outset: reality intrusion.
On the very first page, the characters have a behind-bars chin wag about Tom Cruise. I know that’s meant to ground Starlight in our “real world,” but do we really need it? The only thing that kind of hat-tipping ends up doing is dating the book for years to come. Even in a retro-futuristic book like this, it loads the narrative too conditionally and takes away from the timeless fun of it all by addressing its placement directly.
The art from Parlov once again takes the same approach that Millar does to its story. There are a lot of cool elements - more than enough to make me think it could be great - but an almost equal amount feels rushed, bare and simplistic, like he too is only halfway paying attention to a comic, which may end up being, at best, transitory for the Starlight story.
That all being said, I’m still going to give Starlight a passing grade. It’s far from prolapse-awful, but I think that completely unlike its main character, who is looking for redemption and validation through a well-timed space adventure, this old dog has simply settled down.
Writer: Mark Millar Artist: Goran Parlov Publisher: Image Comics Price: $2.99 Release Date: 6/11/14 Format: Print/Digital