Today’s Super Comic — Starman #56 (1999)

There’s a lot to love about James Robinson’s Starman, and issue #56 highlights one of those many fine qualities—a strong supporting cast.

While Jack Knight is off in space in search of a previous Starman, we check in on Opal City and several of its familiar residents, such as Ted Knight, the O’Dare family of cops, Jack’s girlfriend Sadie, and the Shade. The thread holding this particular issue together is a mystery involving the Shade. He’s either returning to a life of crime…or he’s being framed. Time (and a later issue) will tell, but it’s an intriguing set-up that makes good use of the book’s cast.

It also opens the door for several guest stars, another area where the book excels. In this issue alone, we see brief appearances by the Elongated Man, the Phantom Lady, Adam Strange, and the Black Condor. Not a single one is an A-lister, or even close, but that’s part of what makes their appearances welcome.

DC has so many superheroes on the periphery who seldom get a chance to shine but who have plenty of potential, who are just waiting for the right writer to come along with an interesting angle to leverage that potential…which is basically what happened to Starman with this series.

So, yes, as I approach the three-quarters mark of this series, I’m still enjoying it tremendously.

Story: James Robinson and David Goyer

Writer: James Robinson

Pencilers: Stephen Sadowski and Peter Snejbjerg

Inker: Keith Champagne

Cover: Andrew Robinson

Publisher: DC Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Comixology; included in Starman Omnibus vol. 5 (HC)

Appropriate For: ages 14 and up

Today’s Super Comic — Starman #44 (1998)

Starman would occasionally take a detour into the past, in a recurring feature labeled “Times Past.” These stories would foreshadow upcoming storylines, fill in details about Opal City’s history, or show us the original Starman (Ted Knight) in action in his prime. It was a great idea for world-building, and it placed the weight of history behind the current Starman (Jack Knight).

Issue #44 takes us back to 1944, when Ted Knight protected Opal, but he’s more of a supporting character this time. This issue reintroduces us to the Phantom Lady, one of the earliest female superheroes, and it establishes her as the cousin of Ted. We also learn she was the one who became a superhero first, and she helped inspire him to do the same. That’s a nice reversal of how things usually go in comics.

The Phantom Lady (Sandra Knight) makes a good first impression here. Not only is she tough and skilled, but she also comes across as a happy hero who genuinely enjoys the work. She makes a welcome addition to the Starman family.

Writer: James Robinson

Penciler: Mike Mayhew

Inker: Wade Von Grawbadger

Cover: Tony Harris

Publisher: DC Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Comixology; included in Starman Omnibus vol. 4 (HC)

Appropriate For: ages 14 and up