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The Starman Omnibus, Vol. 6 (The Grand Guignol) (Review/Retrospective)

March is Superman month here at the m0vie blog, what with the release of the animated adaptation of Grant Morrison’s superb All-Star Superman. We’ll be reviewing a Superman-related book/story arc every Wednesday this month, so check on back – and we might have a surprise or two along the way. Earlier today we reviewed the New Krypton crossover, which was largely driven by author James Robinson, so we thought we’d end the day by taking a look at the final collection of Robinson’s work on Starman.

This volume represents perhaps my favourite stories that James and the wonderful group of artists he worked with created because it has something that nearly every on-going superhero series doesn’t have – a definitive ending – and a whole satisfying one at that.

– Geoff Johns’ introduction

We’ve come a long way, baby. 80 issues, six hardcover collections, countless extras (including supplements, specials and miniseries). A collection of diaries written by James Robinson documenting his time writing the saga, collected in the back of each collection. Starman has been collected nearly perfectly, and the sixth volume is no exception. It’s still something of a mixed blessing, because – no matter how much I appreciate the sense of closure – I’m still sad to see the series end.

Birds of a feather...

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The Starman Omnibus, Vol. 5 (Stars My Destination)

The Starman Omnibus, Volume V covers a very rocky period in the history of the Starman mythos. The wonderful thing about the little after-words that James Robinson has provided for each of these volumes by way of annotation is that they offer you a hint of the context of everything that is going on around the series. Starman as a series had just lost an editor in Archie Goodwin and an artist in Tony Harris. Robinson himself was going through some very personal issues, and he confessed that he was seriously considering just hanging up the reigns on the book.

He didn’t, and ultimately saw the comic book through its full 80-issue run, but it gives you a sense of the instability surrounding the title at that period of time. And what did Robinson do with, with everything so uncertain around the book? He moved the series from the streets of Opal City into the depths of DC’s shared cosmic universe and took on David S. Goyer as a co-plotter for Stars My Destination, which was an interesting direction for one of the nineties’ most down-to-earth characters.

A "cluster" of Starmen?

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Stories That Mattered: Essential Stories From DC Comics’ 75 Years

We’re a bit late to the party, but this week we’ll be celebrating the 75th anniversary of DC Comics, with a look at the medium, the company and the characters in a selection of bonus features running Monday through Friday. This is one of those articles. Be sure to join us for the rest.

It’s been 75 years since DC burst on the scene. I don’t imagine too many of the suits behind the scenes expected it to last quite this long. The wonderful folks over at io9 came up with a 75-book list of essentials and it’s a pretty good list, but it’s heavily toned towards “important” narratives rather than “good” narratives. It’s a fair distinction. Comic books are a young medium, and – being frank – most of the early writing sucks. The Golden Age Batman and Superman narratives were semi-decent stories (in many ways better than those that followed), but the truly awful dialogue makes them nigh impossible to read. I thought I’d just put together a list of some of the highly recommended DC stories I’ve picked up over the years.

Definitely important... not so sure it's essential...

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The Starman Omnibus, Vol. 3

What makes a hero? Is it a cosmic rod and a kick-ass pair of glare-reducing goggles? Is it being a “grim avenger full of hate for the bad” (one of Robinson’s more subtle jabs at Batman during this run)? Or is it simply “doing what’s right because it is”? Is it the honest desire to make the world a better place with “no vengeful motivation” or “nothing ulterior”? We may be getting ahead of ourselves here, but James Robinson really digs into what constitutes a ‘true’ hero here, looking at the classic simplistic conception of the superhero, rejecting the violence of the anti-hero or the deconstruction which has crept into comics over the past few years (mostly in lieu of character development or to seem darker and edgier). Is that what a hero is?

I don’t know, but I find myself agreeing with Batman. No matter how you cut it, Jack Knight is a hero.

A knight in shining armour...

A Knight in shining armour...

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The Starman Omnibus, Vol. 2

Now we’re getting into it. It seems that Robinson has got all the setup necessary to move the story forward out of the way (or at least the bulk of it) and that Tony Harris has finally found his feet on the series. This collection moves a lot more fluidly than the last one – partially due to the fact that it closes as many threads as it opens, but also because Robinson is no free of having to establish the series’ premise and can now focus on the stories that he wants to tell (almost, we’ll come to the exceptions). Those stories are – by and large – reflective studies of what is known as “The Golden Age” of comic books: the 1930s and 1940s. What happened to the world between then and now? What happened to the heroes? Was it ever really the kinder gentler place we recall?

christmasknight

And it's our first Chrismas-themed image... Earlier every year...

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The Starman Omnibus, Vol. 1

I’m not quite sure what to make of the collection. I know it’s the first of six volumes which will include the entire 80-issue run of James Robinson’s reimagining the concept (plus extras) and I know that it’s the opening chapter of a much more expansive story. And I know that – as a story – it is structured in a much more dynamic and interesting way than most other superhero adventures. But I’m not feeling it. At least not yet.

jackknight

No hero here(o)...

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