Starlight by Mark Millar and Goran Parlov

The heart of a pastiche story is that it is true to the source material but also unique, distinct, and with a grounded point of view. With Starlight, pulp comic heroes of the 1930s such as Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon interact with storylines from classic sci fi literature such as John Norman’s Gor series –  while meeting homage characters from Metropolis to Star Wars. Unfortunately, a clever reason to revisit those classics – a much needed raison d’etre for the series, is missing. As a result, the title started out with promise but quickly petered out under its own lack of impetus and originality.

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Story: Duke McQueen, US Pilot, accidentally wound up on a foreign planet and saved the people from a tyrant. Now, decades later after returning to Earth, his wife has died and he is facing his mortality. His grown children never believed him and he’s lost the most important person in his life. Then a spaceship appears on his doorstep and a young boy exits – asking Duke to come back to the other planet and save them again.

The first part of the story started out with so much promise – a somewhat snarky old man with an unbelievable tale. Since the premise of old guy revisiting his past glory has been done infinitely in the past, a reader naturally expects that this title will have a twist or charm that will be the reason for it being made. How will Duke McQueen’s journey be different than all the other septuagenarian soujourners/daydreamers like him in the past?  And the answer is: it isn’t. He goes to the planet, kicks butt, returns home, end of story. And even the way he does the butt whomping is trite and uninteresting (not to mention greatly rushed as if the author ran out of steam or became bored with the story himself). I kept wondering if this series was meant to go somewhere else with a longer run but was abruptly ended instead.

The art is serviceable but very all-over-the-place. From a modern goatee-d villain, 1970s anime kid, Han Solo’s sister wearing his clothes, to Deja Thoris from the Mars series, it was a mix of styles that never meshed. Coloring and backgrounds can sometimes unify the styles but that just didn’t happen here. Primary colors of 1930s Buck Rogers contrast with bright over-the-top manga/anime pink hair. Backgrounds go from shades of oranges and blues to pastelly pinks and lavenders. The art is clean and easy to follow but lacking any kind of depth or detail – perhaps owing most to the 1930s pulp comic feel.

I think I would have really enjoyed Starlight if there had been an original thought or bone somewhere in that story. Removing characters ad hoc from other milieus but then not doing much with them afterwards is never going to be a recipe for success.  Either make this a parody, an homage, or a comedy – but this somewhat earnest and somewhat silly plotline fails to make a clear point of view by either the author(s) or artist(s). It lacks heart and charm that is so needed in this type of story (think of the old man in the movie Up). Starlight ended flatly and then was instantly forgotten after the read finished.  Reviewed from an advance reader copy provided by the publisher.

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