Diamond Comic order code DEC140693
Available via Comic Stores 2/11; Bookstores 2/24
Some creators, musicians and authors have a knack for cranking out hits. Stephen King, Tom Petty, you get the idea.
And like those gentlemen, Mark Millar’s work is often imitated but never surpassed. An upstanding member of a Bill and Ted-esque order of chivalry—Most Excellent Order of the British Empire—the Scotsman’s latest trade paperback is Starlight, another gold record to put on the wall.
With Goran Parlov (Punisher MAX) on art, this sendup to pulp heroes, Flash Gordon, Buck Rogers, John Carter and Adam Strange is a pop-art celebration of comics, serials and retired superheroes.
Starlight as a comic is an amazing blend of Star Wars, The Incredibles, and Up with a modern take on the thriller that would translate well to the movie screen. Don’t be surprised when that happens, Kick-Ass 1 & 2, Wanted and the upcoming Kingsman: The Secret Service (February, 2015) are just some of the Millar works to be adapted. Nearly all of his comics make it passed the optioning stage. Gary Whitta (Book of Eli, After Earth) is working on the Starlight movie script with producer Simon Kinberg (X-Men: Days of Future Past, The Fantastic Four) tapped as the producer.
Millar writes ‘for the trade’, ditching the long-form superhero story long ago after his stint in the Ultimate X-Men universe at Marvel in the early 2000s. Even his mainstream work for the big two comes in limited series books like Old Man Logan (2008-09). Taking stories like Kick-Ass to the screen before the series was concluded yielded different endings for the comic and the movie—and even if this would be considered a blunder by some—but Mark Millar has the formula down.
Usually when myself (or god forbid, other reviewers) use the term formulaic, it is meant as a detriment to the work itself. In this case I would have to clarify that I mean this only complimentary. The reason I like action movies is the bombast and plot twists. Millar infuses what the audience wants to see with clever storytelling.
It can’t hurt that he teams up with the best artists in the business to get the job done either. If it’s The Secret Service’s Dave Gibbons (Watchmen), Jupiter’s Legacy’s Frank Quietly (Batman and Robin), or Leinil_Yu (Superior and Supercrooks) and of course Kick Ass’ John Romita Jr., the man is working with storytellers capable of laying the groundwork for cinematic magic.
In the case of Starlight, Goran Parlov’s European style á la Moebius we get to transport ourselves to the Golden Age of sci-fi film making through his set pieces and spaceships.
Close your eyes and picture “A Rocket to Mars” and that is what you get. With bubble space helmets and even bubbly-er ray guns, the planet of Tantalus is the Krypton of your dreams.
Forty years ago, Duke McQueen was the space cowboy transported to Tantalus and became the Clint Eastwood of the Spaghetti Western days. He saved the planet and then some before returning to back to Earth and his loving wife. Fast forward to present day, and his wife has passed, and no one—including his sons—believes that McQueen was off planet, and lives life alone as an old man.
Yeah, picture an elder Eastwood in Gran Torino for McQueen’s current status.
One day, Krrish Moor, a young boy from Tantalus appears in a ship in Duke’s yard. He begs McQueen to suit up and return peace to his land. After considering it a bit, he shoe-horns his way into his costume and leaves Earth to lend a hand. Partly because he thinks his wife would want it this way.
Over the course of the six issues, you find out the Tantalus has been raided by an alien race, The Broteans, lead by the evil Kingfisher. Kingfisher has the power of Vader (though choking people mechanically, not with The Force) and is stripping our sister planet of all of it’s vital resources.
There’s a rebellion, of course—another great Star Wars nod.
Without being too on the nose or beating your head with it, Millar even gives Krish a Bruce Wayne origin story that I didn’t notice the first read through. Whoops, I guess I ruined that for you but give it a chance and see how he does it. The subtlety is the key to this plot point’s success.
Duke is not used to being the hero any more, or the adulation he gets from the rebels but it is a welcome contrast to no one on Earth believing his story.
The most modern comparison I could make to this volume is that stylistically it is similar to the space adventures in Saga, but condensed to one volume that is a whole story itself. If you like Saga and want to check out Millar and Parlov, here is a great place to start.
This book somehow celebrates the 40s, 50s, 60s, and present day problems and superhero scifi tropes all at once. We get a great leading lady hero in Tilda Starr (equal parts Mon Mothma and Princess Leia), fighting equally on par with her off-planet new friend and sidekick Krrish.
Whereas I may have thought Jupiter’s Legacy was a bit more about Quitely’s art and commenting on the comic book industry, Starlight has a wider appeal. The art is equally as great, but while reading in issues, my heart would jump with excitement as I turned the page.
As a comic book junkie, this is the dragon I always chase and this volume is nearly perfect. I merely wish there were more or I could jump through a rift where I could see this movie on screen already!