‘Starlight’ #1: Millar & Parlov Send A Pretty Postcard From A Place You’ve Already Visited [Review]
Did you like The Incredibles and Flash Gordon? Are you completely unaware of the existence of Grant Morrison's take on English sci-fi icon Dan Dare? Then you are the perfect audience for Starlight, a new Image Comics project by Mark Millar and Goran Parlov that waves its influences in front of your face and hopes that's enough to accomplish what the actual book does not.
Duke McQueen (because "Flash Rogers" or "Buck Gordon" would have been too obvious, even for a writer who named an actual comic book Kick-Ass) is a man who's been out there. Through the usual sort of circumstances that pulp science-fiction depends on, he visited the picturesque alien world of Tantalus, becoming its Terran champion after deposing the dictator Typhon. After genre-appropriate derring-do, McQueen returned to Earth and tried to find a normal life with his true love. Sadly, after many uneventful years and the death of his spouse, Duke's at loose ends, flashing back and forth between his days as a space-faring hero and a middle-aged suburbanite... until something happens.
It's a good (if extremely familiar) premise, and McQueen is a likable (if entirely generic) protagonist thanks to some a few well-handled character moments. The rest of the book's earthbound cast is the usual blunt instrument, delivering dialogue you don't even need to read to know that Mark Millar doesn't think much of people that aren't his heroes, but together Millar and Parlov have created a sympathetic figure in the past-his-prime adventurer.
Indeed, it's in those quieter moments that Starlight begins to show promise. Parlov's pictures are, as usual, studies in casual elegance. This first issue does't necessarily give him anything fancy to do when it comes to storytelling, but with this artist it's as much a pleasure to watch him render the day-to-day life of a widower as it is to look at the Moebius-influenced world Tantalus. Comics artists should look at this book to understand how to make even the most by-the-numbers script work to their advantage.
Starlight #1 is not an aggressively bad comic, but there's a palpable lack of surprises in its first issue. It has a plot and it's going to stick to it no matter what, with metronomic pacing that builds to a last-page reveal that you saw coming the second you picked the book off the shelf.
Like the rest of the Millarworld books, Starlight comes with a solid premise and masterful artwork, but feels like it's mainly just trying to seal a deal with Hollywood — which this already has, of course — more than it is trying to execute a great comic book story, and that's its biggest failure. If it ever felt like Millar was once again interested in the comics medium and its possibilities, I'd be willing to cut Starlight more slack. But it seems the writer is on cruise control, and there's little reason for the audience to get in car with him.