Tuesday, August 19, 2008

In Review Of: the Starman Omnibus

I've already called Starman The Great American Comic Book of the '90's, but haven't gone into much detail as to why I think that it deserves its title. The release of the Starman Omnibus #1 is a great reason to revisit the series and do a little dissection of the Robinson and Harris' creation. We also get to take a look at the Omnibus format as well.

In a prior post on the Kirby 4th World Omnibus, I commented on the paper and its quality, perhaps calling it a bit too light. While commenting on paper may put me in the "oh come on" catagory, it does have a lot to do with how it takes the color, and I think that I actually like this weight. I bears the very saturated colors of the Starman series as well as the older color style of the Jimmy Olsens.

And make no mistake, the colors of Starman look very much like the 1990s, which is not a knock on the series, but a compliment. The series has its own individual look, with distinctive Harris and Von Grawbadger artwork through the entire volume, with only two "Times Past" exceptions.

What is shocking is the quality in the early issues of how bad the reproduction is, particularly the black plate. There are entire pages that muddy up and word balloons that are either dropping out completely or have letters closing up. Its shocking really. So here is the conundrum: if the initial scans of the pages, because this is as far back as 1995 we're talk8ing about here, as really that shitty, do you not take the time to reletter the balloons for what is a true archival project, or do you leave it "as is" so that the archiving keeps the production errors as well as the charm of the growing young artist? I hate to say it, but the Sandman editions get it right. If there is a coloring error, or a balloon that you can't read, fix it for the premium editions. Get it right for posterity.

And this series is worth keeping for posterity. Robinson tackles our assumptions about superheroes and turns them on their ear more than once. But he also tackles thornier issues that resonate at a higher emotional level than "what happened to Solomon Grundy". Issues like fathers and sons and brothers and love and family and faith and redemption and he doesn't derail the cool comics concepts like Merritt's soul stealing poster, or the succubus circus or the new Mist. Somehow, inside what Robinson mentions as not an always harmonious working relationship with Tony Harris, was the making of a classic story, comic or not. I prefer to think that the sparks the exist between creators may not make for the easiest relationship, but they can certainly take the collaboration to new levels by playing off one another.

Robinson ties everything up neatly by the end of the series, much is the same way that Neil Gaiman was able to over in Sandman, and it makes for a great read. Unlike the endless saga of open ended cliffhangers that Claremont did for a solid 10 years of X-men, everything here means something. And while I still insist that he stretches far too much for the connection of Will Payton and the King Gavyn Starman (and in a classic comics touch, he even writes a scene de facto admitting that it can't all be shoehorned into position, no matter the size of the shoehorn, as Will tells his sister Sadie, "Its all pretty fuzzy."), is that really the point of the series?

But I'm getting ahead of myself. That scene wouldn't happen for years later in the comic. Here, we're treated to the storytelling conceit of a writer taking 5 issues to show a single day from five differnt players in the Opal City crime wave. And it works. Not totally, completely, in a flawless way, but it works, ocassionally bumpy narrative and all when read together, and it makes for a powerful canvas to continue the rest of the story of the Mist's first crime wave on.

Bottom line: great project, a dream to have on the bookshelf. I'll be getting more of the Omnibuses as they ship in the Starman series. A great collection of a classic series.

1 comment:

The RIpple Effect said...

I agree, one of the great comics of its era. James Robinson became my favorite writer for a while based on this and The Golden Age. I even tracked down all the Malibu Firearm issues.

The amazing thing to me was this started out as part of some huge DC crossover event (was it 1,000,000?) which also produced two other good titles, Chase and Chronos. Unfortunately, they were short-lived.