Saturday, 23 June 2012
Retro Review: Starman Volume 1: Sins of the Father
Starman: Sins of the Father collects Starman (Volume 2) #0-5 By Robinson / Harris
One of the hallmarks of the D.C Universe, and one of the major distinctions that sets it apart from its Marvel counterpart is the relatively commonplace nature of 'legacy' heroes. For the uninitiated, a legacy hero is a shorthand way of describing a new, generally younger, character taking on an already existing superhero mantle, often one which they already have some sort of pre-existing familial link to. The overarching theme of this collection may be one that is typical to the classic D.C Universe, but its narrative content and overall style could not be further from the norm. Jack Knight, the son of the Starman of the Golden age, is the star of the series, but he is a staunchly atypical hero, and a broadly conflicted character. Knight is very much a reluctant occupant of the Starman mantle, and constantly feels the pressure of the two men in his family to previously go by the name - his father Ted Knight, and brother David. In many ways Jack is the archetypal everyman - he is a hero not by choice but by necessity and constantly rails at the effects that his 'secret' identity has upon his otherwise comfortable, if slightly jumbled existence.
That isn't to say that this is a storyline entirely without classic superheroics, and to be fair it does have its fair share of action, but framed against a backdrop that has much more in common with the real world than even the grittiest superhero epics of the modern day. Tony Harris' pencils and Wade Von Grawbadgers excellent, distinctive inks are both cartoony and understated, creating a style that effortlessly blends the fantastic with the flawed, often unattractiveness wrinkles of reality. There are ridiculous, over the top, overpowered characters and magical, unexplainable objects - the enigmatic Shade for example, or the mysterious Hawaiian shirt with a terrible secret - and they are made all the more fantastical by their presence in a world that never seems anything less than real.
Despite the whimsical, Golden Age character that this series borrows its name from, this collection is as close to a 'real world' take on a superhero as you are likely to see. This is a hero without a real costume, powers of his own, or the sort of heroic posturing that defined the likes of Captain America and Superman when they were first created. Jack Knight is a truly unique creation and it is his characterisation, not to mention the vibrant, realistic world that James Robinson and his art team create, that make this collection such a joy to read. Sins of the Father is a rough diamond, and by no means the perfectly crafted epic that something like Watchmen or Sandman can claim to be, but a fantastic read nonetheless and an inspiring opening to the series.