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‘The Savage Strength of Starstorm, Vol. 1’ TPB (review)

Written and Illustrated by Drew Craig
Published by Image Comics

 

Like many a geek these days, I’ve been bitten by the 1990s nostalgia bug thanks to X-Men ’97. It’s really that good. Each episode contains several straight-up bars in the dialogue, the awesome joy of superpowers, sexy melodrama; and kick-ass fights. The show keys into what made the original series work, and then remixes fan-familiar storylines while making the show relevant to today.

It’s everything you could want in a revival.

Otherwise, I don’t long for much else from the ’90s to be brought back.

I don’t need them to return. I can go watch them, like I’m rewatching Living Single right now.

And I surely don’t need to bring back a lot of ’90s superhero comic books.

The giant crossovers, chesty illustrations, grimdark avengers and extreme gimmicks of the speculator boom. I didn’t care for a lot of it, and The Savage Strength of Starstorm calls back to an era I don’t want to see much of. It might be fine if this comic were better written or illustrated, but alas it is not.

For lack of a better word, everything about this comic feels badly amateurish and unprofessional. The story, the art, the lettering, the coloring – all of it. And not in the earnest, there’s-something-here amateurism and loving pastiche of Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird’s original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comics. But in the way that I could have made something like this when I was 12, and it wouldn’t be good either.

The story centers on Grant Garrison, an orphaned teenager overcoming amnesia when his school is struck by a meteor and he is fused to a living weapon from another world. There’s a galactic empire, an evil princess, mutant powers, zombies, bounty hunters, time travel, and a million other things that don’t cohere into a solid story. The storytelling here is a lot of “this happens, then this happens, then this happens.”

Craig’s art is blocky, flat, weak on backgrounds and detail. The perspectives are every which way, the poses overwrought. A splash page full of random superheroes fighting in a future war should be inspiring, but how can it be when I don’t know or care who anyone is?

Every single female character’s face is the same face, with giant eyes and sloping cheekbones that make every face look like they’re craning their heads down at all times. There’s a Black speedster named Bolt (like Usain), adding to the list of alt-supers with a Black speedster. Another Black superhero says “right on.” (My guy, at least have read Dwayne McDuffie’s legendarily satirical letter about awful Black characters to Marvel editors!)

Add to this the most grievous sin of all: Starstorm’s costume, well, stinks. It studiously has the ’90s bits of big shoulder pauldrons, gauntlets, kneeguards and boots with Rob Liefeld feet. This head-to-toe body armor has a metal faceplate, but the top of Grant’s head is exposed so we can see his shock of blond hair. (Just do the classically ‘90s “head sock” instead, which then – the rest of the book is full of them on the other superheroes!)

It’s as if Craig doesn’t know what this story logic truly is and is just adding stuff as he goes along.

At first a character mentions comic books, and then it turns out superheroes are real in this world. We get visitations from the future like in Batman v Superman that are meant to world-build, and are as successful as it was for that movie. Things just happen, and happen, and happen, with little that connects the events to characters and their emotions, or consequences of their actions.

Even the ending of this first chapter throws in another plot twist that strings from Grant’s amnesia but is done so inartfully. We don’t get any memory-fragment, nightmare-recall sequences like Wolverine – something this ’90s pastiche should be doing.

We also get side quests and plots that the story doesn’t have time to stick with.

I knew this was in trouble for sure when the second issue starts with a word crawl about what happened to the school and Grant’s classmates after the meteor struck. More exposition dump happens at a cemetery, after an apparent collective funeral all the people who died. (What?)

Furthermore, none of these characters have much of any depth or color to them. Grant’s friends Jen and Eli are mutated by the meteor into a plasma energy being (who of course goes unexpectedly naked the first time she powers off) and Thing-like creature, respectively, without much contemplation over what has befallen them.

The final issue ends with a note about this being the first chapter in the saga of Starstorm, and that he will return. I do hope the next chapter is better. Unfortunately, for me, Drew Craig’s fanboy foray never really got started.

 

 

 

 

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