Today’s Super Comic — Starman #65 (2000)

Stephen King isn’t the only writer to trap a bunch of people under a dome. James Robinson did it several years earlier in Starman…although this impenetrable dome is pitch black rather than transparent.

The Shade has seemingly reverted to his old evil ways, imperiling everyone within Opal City. Several other villains are working for him, and other superheroes are also trapped within the city. The Elongated Man gets a nice scene that emphasizes the two most important aspects of his character—his detective skills and his loving relationship with his wife Sue.

The story’s most important superhero, obviously, is the current Starman, Jack Knight. From the beginning, the series has made it clear how tremendously important Opal City is to Jack, and now he must fight overwhelming odds to save it…against someone he thought was a friend.

Robinson has set quite a few pieces into place, and the stakes are escalating nicely as we head toward the series’ final year.

Writer: James Robinson

Artist: Peter Snejbjerg

Cover: Andrew Robinson

Publisher: DC Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Comixology; included in Starman Omnibus vol. 6 (HC)

Appropriate For: ages 14 and up

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 #4 (1995)

starman_vol_2_4Jack Knight has agreed to serve as Starman on an as-needed basis, but he’s really kind of hoping the need never arises. For now, he’s just trying to rebuild his collectibles store…but he learns that, as his father says, when you’re a superhero, “the weirdness finds you. Like it or not.”

Issue #4 shows us a single weird night for Jack as he’s working to restore a sense of normalcy. He receives an unexpected visit from the immortal Shade, a former villain who now just wants Opal City to remain a tranquil place. And an old rich guy sends a henchman to find a particular magic shirt that has wound up on Jack’s collection, and to retrieve it by any means necessary.

James Robinson’s writing is in top form here, as he continues to steer everything away from conventional black-and-white superheroics. With each issue, he reinvents the preexisting Shade into a character that might as well be his own creation, and one who operates under a unique morality that he’s developed throughout the course of his lengthy life. Also, Jack’s confrontation with the henchman reaches an amusing resolution that’s free of fisticuffs and perfectly in character for this new Starman.

The art by Tony Harris is equally engaging. Harris gives Opal City enough meticulous detail to make it feel like a place rather than a mere location name, and his splash panel of Shade’s entrance is memorable.

Fantastic stuff all around.

Writer: James Robinson

Artist: Tony Harris

Inker: Wade Von Grawbadger

Publisher: DC Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Comixology; included in Starman Omnibus vol. 1 (HC)

Appropriate For: ages 12 and up