(Image Comics, 2014)
Created by Mark Millar & Goran Parlov
Written by Mark Millar
Artwork by Goran Parlov
Color Artwork by Ive Svorcina
Mark Millar has captured the spirit of Star Wars, the nostalgia of Flash Gordon, the adventure of Indiana Jones and Buck Rogers and thrown in his usual heaping helping of over- the- top violence; the result is one of the best science fiction action adventure series I have read in a long time. Starlight contains all the best loved sci-fi tropes from yesteryear but Millar raises the stakes and the body count in his homage to pulp space opera. The story centers on Duke McQueen (possibly the best character name ever) image Charlton Heston with the physique of Arnold circa T2, still a badass but a little older and a little slower. Captain McQueen is a former member of a unit that fought for and won freedom for the inhabitants of Tantalus. However, four decades have past and the hard won peace and tranquility have been replaced by the tyranny of Lord Kingfisher and his sinister regime of terror. McQueen is still revered for his acts of gallantry and selfless service by a portion of Tantalus’ oppressed citizenry. They pray for the day he returns and restores the freedom that has been so mercilessly torn from their clutching hands; to that end they send a young Tantalusian boy in a space ship to Earth in the hopes of rallying a much older McQueen to their cause. It’s not an easy sell but Space Boy wins the elderly freedom fighter over with his tale of woe and the two return to Tantalus. Upon arrival, McQueen is aghast at the sight of the once idyllic planet in its current war torn and ravaged state. He is ready to do what must be done. Millar does a fantastic job of pulling you right into this world; he wastes no time in introducing the alien culture and landscape so that there is a feeling of familiarity almost immediately. As is also the case for McQueen and Space Boy; Millar does use a good bit of exposition to bring us up to speed but it is so enjoyable and engrossing that it quite literally flies by.
McQueen is gruff, weathered and a little cantankerous at first however; that rough exterior is quickly replaced by a kind of “older, wiser Han Solo” type façade. He is one of the most endearing protagonists I have encountered in a Millar series. Although this is only the third issue of Starlight, the characters and the world already feel like home.
Every hero needs a rival and McQueen has one of the vilest, most reprehensible and downright evil villains since Satan crawled from the Garden of Eden to fill that role. His name is Lord Kingfisher and he has placed his foot firmly on the throat of the people of Tantalus. Kingfisher has built a castle without doors as a monument to his treachery; he believes doors to be a sign of weakness for men who fear their enemies and his enemies are all dead, so he thinks. He televises the torture of those who oppose his cruelty as a deterrent to any other would-be rebels in the viewing audience. Tantalus has fallen into poverty under Kingfisher’s rule; prostitution, drugs and all manner of disorderly conduct has become the norm for the once prosperous Tantalusians. Millar presents Tantalus as a world that is a bit out of time in its politics as well as in its culture; he portrays a world that is not quite up to speed with Earth in some ways but somewhat obsessed with our popular culture. In one particularly clever scene we meet Wes Adams who asks McQueen about the state of Tom and Nicole’s relationship. Humor and humanity add a degree of depth to Millar’s narrative as well as a complexity to the characters. They are relatable despite their alien origin and future civilization.
In this issue Duke and Space Boy’s adventure begins in earnest. There is no turning back now, Duke steps into his roles as savior and liberator in a very big way that does not go unnoticed by Kingfisher and his goon squad. However, Duke’s age and prolonged absence from any sort of combat have taken their collective toll on his fighting ability resulting in a less than stellar debut as the vindicator of Tantalus. He faces a new adversary, more ruthless than the previous one but the beleaguered residents of Tantalus remain steadfast and hopeful that Duke is their salvation. Just on the periphery of the action is the mysterious Tilda Starr, a woman who seems to be McQueen’s equal in just about every way. Starr is sure to figure prominently in the plot as things come together and fates are decided.
Visually, Goran Parlov’s art captures that timeless sense that Millar’s narrative conjures; from his character designs to his vehicles and architecture of Tantalus, his style is a perfect fit for the story. Parlov proves that he is equally adept at creating imagery for intergalactic crime as he is at the Earth-bound variety. He is the ideal choice for this book in my opinion. Ive Svorcina’s almost pastel palette works wonderfully in conveying an otherworldly atmosphere as well as creating a real feeling of nostalgia through the use of muted tones that enhances the timeless setting of Millar’s narrative.
Starlight is entertaining and exciting from the very first panel of issue #1 and remains so right through the entire three issues currently published. The fast paced narrative is buoyed by exciting action sequences and some extremely sharp character development; Millar’s witty dialog and expert use of humor brings heart and humanity to this high flying space opera. This book is for anyone who loves their science fiction like their orange juice, a little pulpy. I know, that was awful but Starlight certainly is not, I suggest you get on board for Tantalus and don’t look back. (4.75/5)
Shawn is an aspiring writer/ artist who has been reading, collecting and living comic books for over 30 years. He lives in Baltimore with his wife, their son, lots of cats, dogs and other various finned and furry friends.