Friday, August 22, 2008

Book of the Week 2: Holy War #4

[Another edition of "book of the week." I select a book that I bought this week for more in-depth discussion based on nothing more than what I feel like discussing. It doesn't even have to be a good comic. New posts every Friday.]

I really like Jim Starlin's work. It's well documented that I'm a big fan and have read a lot of his work. I've been trying to determine exactly how his DC work relates to his Marvel work, especially the "cosmic" stuff for each company. Over at Marvel, Starlin has created or redefined most of his core cosmic characters (Adam Warlock, Thanos, Drax, etc.), but, at DC, he's using well-established an defined characters. So, how does his approach differ?

First of all, he either creates or redefines characters. In Holy War, he continues his redefinition of Captain Comet as Comet, his supposed nephew--when, really, it's the original Captain Comet in a younger body. Now, I haven't read Starlin's Mystery in Space yet (or his old Hardcore Station stuff), so I only know the basic details thanks to Wikipedia. But, Weird is another Starlin creation that's highlighted here. He's also seemingly working on redefining Hawkman (as suggested in the special from a couple of weeks back and interviews with Starlin).

In his Marvel work, almost every large cosmic event story comes down to Adam Warlock and/or Thanos. The use of the regular Marvel universe heroes is merely a smokescreen as they prove to be of no use... they just distract the reader from the real story and act as a way to connect the events to Earth and garner interest from the general Marvel reader who would ignore a story just featuring Starlin's cosmic characters. Since his Marvel cosmic stuff ultimately revolves around his core characters no matter how misleading the story itself is, I'm left wondering which characters will be essential to this story and which are only there to throw off the reader and, in a way, "pad" the story...

The Starlin-created characters and redefined ones seem like the best bets, particularly going on this issue where Comet and Weird narrate substantial chunks. Starlin also hints at the old Captain Comet for the first time in his deeds rather than biographical detail--Comet, in this issue, is the most effective character in battling Synar, Deacon Dark and the robot Inquisitors. He takes charge and leads the group of heroes in battle, which is different from his usual cowardly and flippant attitude from previous issues. It's also contrasted with Adam Strange, the seeming leader of this group.

Strange is ineffective in the fight--first, used as a pawn by Comet, who uses his telekinesis to force Strange and Tigor's guns to fire on their enemies--and then, is rescued by Weird. After that, he takes Bizarro from Throneworld despite Starman's objections and, as a result, Throneworld is decimated by Lady Styx's forces. While we'll see more of Adam Strange in his upcoming special (where Starlin could put his stamp on the character), he is clearly here to be upstaged by other heroes, especially Comet. If you look at the cover to this issue, it's clear: Adam Strange is panicking and about to die while Comet and Weird look to save him.

Starfire also appears on the cover and also narrates a small portion of the book, but I don't think Starlin has plans for her. I could be wrong as Starlin does like strong warrior women in his books, but they usually retain a secondary position to his heroic males.

Then, how do Comet and Weird relate to other Starlin heroes? Weird resembles Syzygy Darklock and Wyrd the Reluctant Warrior either in appearance or attitude. He has an off-beat sense of humour, but also seems mystical in many ways. The way he absorbs electricity here also brings to mind Maxam's strange powers. But, most of these characters are secondary ones that assist the main hero (aside from Wyrd--although he is a clueless hero). So, while Weird is a typical Starlin creation, he will, probably, not be the deciding factor in this story.

Which leaves Comet: he is selfish, self-serving and reluctant to get involved, but, when involved, he is decisive and capable. He faced death before and it made him cautious and afraid to face it again. Like many Starlin characters, he is unsure of himself and wouldn't choose to be the "saviour," but may be forced into that role--and, when forced into that role, goes beyond all expectations. He seems the most likely candidate to resolve the problems of this story.

But, I'm not convinced that Adam Strange is out of the running for that role. There's something very compelling about the failed hero regaining his former stature and that also fits with Starlin's past work, especially his work on Silver Surfer.

The use of Bizarro here is very similar to how Starlin used Drax the Destroyer after he was resurrected--a big, dumb tool to destroy things, basically.

Since I'm not as familiar with all of these characters' backgrounds, I can't say how faithful Starlin is to their past portrayals, but I am impressed at how well he fits them into his pet themes, tropes and style. It's not as engaging as his Marvel work--the lack of a "Thanos" is a big hole--but is interesting in the context of his past work. We'll have to see how the final four issues turn out.