Saturday, January 26, 2013

Blogathon 14: Dreadstar #1-12 (Part 1)

I've actually written about these comics before on an issue-by-issue basis. Jeff Lester suggest "the first Dreadstar omnibus" and I had no idea what that meant. That means the first twelve issues of Dreadstar apparently. I love how the format of today is applied to a comic from 30 years ago. Anyone paying attention would never think to collect the first 12 issues, because they don't naturally fall into a collection. It's not like the first six issues are one story and the last six another (or, four, four, and four). To reach the only real dividing point in Dreadstar, would need to collect the first 31 issues, because that's the big story Jim Starlin tells.

Looking at these first 12 issues, a more natural stopping place might have been issue 11 where we get the Lord High Papal's origin story. There is something appealing of ending with issue 12 and the lighter transitory nature of it. It isn't the sort of issue you'd want to lead off a collection with necessarily. I don't know... I've only ever read Dreadstar as the big epic that it is, never just as 12 issues in a single book. I wouldn't know what that's like.

I will say that the first 12 issues of Dreadstar are probably Starlin at his peak. He's never better than this. There may be more passion and creative energy in things like his Warlock run or The Metamorphosis Odyssey, but he's so adept at crafting single issue comics in this period. Every issue is a complete story with its own focus and still builds the bigger story. It's a little clunky at times the way that Starlin recaps everything, but that's how it was done then. And with good reason. He made every issue accessible and, like good TV shows, the parts he emphasised in his recap would give you a window into what this new issue would be about. It wasn't just the same blanket recap. It was shaped by context and the person telling us what happened before.

That said, it's a little weird that this comic series begins with Oedi recapping the events of three previous books. Not at all what you'd expect from the first issue of Epic Comics' first ongoing series. But, it's also book four of The Metamorphosis Odyssey. It was a continuation of a serialised narrative of short chapters and, then, two graphic novels (including one with the same title as this series). That's a little weird.

As for the comics themselves, Starlin sets up an interesting situation. The conflict is really Dreadstar vs. the Lord High Papal, each with their own support. Yet, this happens within the war of the Lord High Papal's Instrumentality and another empire, the Monarchy. Dreadstar winds up on the same side as the Monarchy by default, though is never truly with them. He's more like Yojimbo, playing both sides against each other -- though clearly with the aim of bringing down the Lord High Papal.

The Lord High Papal is a very Starlin-esque character. A giant, muscle-bound thug-looking character. He resembles Thanos and 'Breed and many others. He's a man of power and destiny. The first issue ends with him going to his gods, admitting that he cannot defeat both Dreadstar and his ally Syzygy -- and his gods simply give him more power. He's their tool, their pawn... someone whose job is to simply give them more followers. He's a punk, basically. But, he's capable of terrifying acts like wiping out an entire refugee camp.

He also represents religion organised to the point of forming an oppressive government. His name clearly alludes to the Catholic Pope. Starlins is at his most vicious in attacking organised religion with the Lord High Papal. I'm surprised that this book didn't lead to protests and outrage from Catholics. I love the way that Dreadstar tries to combat the Instrumentality: through their own messiash. It's so cynical and funny.

There's so much that I love about and have internalised from these comics. It's almost hard to write about them since there's so much that I know and take for granted. I'm really curious what Jeff has to say. So, let's end here and see what he has to say in 30 minutes...

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