REVIEW: ‘Starburn’ #1

(Markosia, 2014)

Created and Written by Kelly Bender
Illustrations by Brian Balondo
Inks by Cristian Docolomansky
Colors by Laura Lee
Letters by Nic J Shaw

I’ve got a small beef with the term “indie” when it comes to certain companies. It seems that many people use the term when talking about any book not published by Marvel or DC, and I understand that in a sense. When some of these other companies came out, Dark Horse, Image, IDW, etc., they surely were much more independent in the sense that they were taking a less market-friendly approach to comics, meaning that they published what Marvel and DC were unwilling or unable to do.

I feel like that’s changed.

Those smaller companies I listed above, and a couple of others, now seem to have a greater portion of the overall market than the big two every thought possible. According to Diamond’s website, as of January of this year DC and Marvel still held a combined 62.15% share of the overall retail market. In 2002, it was around 61%. (The numbers are according to Diamond’s Market Share Analysis, found on their website.) That’s actually a rise of over a percentage point in a decade. It seems like those numbers should only increase the idea of the small companies being “indie”. But who hasn’t heard of The Walking Dead? Or Hellboy? Or Ghostbusters? These are all titles that the “indie” publishers are putting out, and even my great-aunt knows what they are. I don’t mean to diminish the work these companies do, which is important, but are they “indie” anymore?

In my opinion they’re not. They aren’t big two, certainly, but neither are they struggling just to exist. An independent comic book is something put out by someone outside of the industry, trying to break in. It’s a project that is put on the market locally, in hometown shops, sold to their mothers and cousins, and touted on every available Internet outlet.

Starburn #1 is the kind of book that all indie books want to be. Published by Markosia, it’s straight from the mind of writer Kelly Bender. Starburn is the introduction of a kind of science fiction story that we haven’t seen since the epic demise of Joss Whedon’s Firefly series. It’s the story of a ship and of the being that happen to be on it when we tune in to the story.

In this case, it’s a group of mercenaries and smugglers who have been hired for an easy transportation gig. In fiction parlance, we can suspect right away that nothing will, in fact, be easy about it, but because the characters are engaging, and the art is so fantastic, we let that little bit slide. I wanted to know what was up. I wanted to see how these pros go about their work. And Bender doesn’t let us down.

Each member of the crew is a different species, and if we look deeply enough I’m sure we’ll be able to find analogues in popular sci-fi for each of them. There’s the hairy pilot, the monkish warrior, the brazen human, the cold and reptilian leader. They’ve all got their peculiar character traits, and although it’s only the first issue Bender gives you the feeling that each one could play a major role in the unraveling story. The art in the book is first rate with illustrations by Brian Bolando, colors by Laura Lee, and inks by Cristian Docolomansky.

The beauty of this book is that it’s a book done by lovers of the genre, and lovers of the story. Each of the people involved in the creation is putting their all into a story and characters that they believe in, and that’s what I feel is the most important thing in making an independent comic. It’s the love story first, and then the tenacity to push through all of the crappy barriers put in place by a capitalist industry to produce a fine piece of comic work.

Starburn is worth the money. It’s full of story and character. The art is great. But all of these things do not a success make. It’s the hard work behind the book that will make this book popular. I’m proud to call it an independent book, because it represents the endgame that all indie publishers should be working toward.

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