Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Starborn Vol. 1: Beyond the Stars Review

Starborn Vol. 1: Beyond the Stars

Being cooler here than he ever is in
the book.
Writer: Chris Roberson

Artist: Kharry Randolph

Collecting: Starborn #1-4

Background Information:

BOOM! studios has made some excellent superhero books over the past few years, Mark Waid’s Irredeemable, for example, was highly praised.

You can imagine the hoopla when comics legend Stan Lee (Y’know, the creator of Thor, Spider-Man and a swathe of Marvel heroes) designed three new superheroes for the publisher! I can only imagine that it would have been the comic industry’s version of new toys at Christmas.

Review:

So Benjamin Warner is an aspiring sci-fi writer who is more than a little down on his luck. Imagine his surprise when the characters he thought he made up start coming for him in real life!

See, Benjamin is apparently from a distant planet where everything he thought he made up is real and coming to kill him.

Oh, he’s also prince of said planet.

There’s a fine line to writing fun superhero books- make it too dark and it becomes depressing; make it too funny and it’s hard to take seriously. Beyond the Stars somehow walks that tightrope very well, making a story that is equal parts dark and humorous. Each moment where Benjamin discovers a new one of his characters out to get him is a great illustration of this. One moment scary-looking creatures are attacking, the next, Benjamin is freaking out about how what he thought was fictitious is suddenly attacking him in the goofiest manner possible.

Benjamin himself is a surprisingly relatable character. He has aspirations early on that get, well, crushed, and his response to it is incredibly human- he comes to resent his job and is even a little embarrassed about his novel in the first place. The result is this that Benjamin feels instantly tangible. Is he a particularly deep character? Not at the moment, but he’s plenty of fun- something that has really been missing from the big two publishers lately.

The best thing about Beyond the Stars, though, is how accessible it is to kids. I don’t usually rate comics on kid-friendliness, but this one seems to have nailed it. The violence isn’t extreme, no sexual innuendo or truly scary situations- it’s a good, clean book. Thankfully, the characterisation and situation that Benjamin finds him in means that this book is equally accessible to adults. That’s a hard thing to pull off. I get disappointed when Marvel and DC very clearly have marked out books that are the “real” versions of their superheroes and “the kids version”. I don’t think is helps bring kids into comics when they know they are just getting the substitute. Beyond the Stars, though, gives kids the real hero, and any comic-reading parent will tell you that that’s something pretty special.

It’s not all smooth sailing for this collection, though, four issues makes the story feel a little half-baked, especially when the book leaves you with a non-ending. What’s more the story itself is pretty shallow; consisting mostly of “meet group of bad guys and run away) scenarios. They’re exciting situations, to be sure, but don’t make the mistake of thinking that there is a deep story happening here.

The art in this volume, though, is just as fun as everything else in the book- cartoony colours and lines look
great and bold colours throughout are distinctive and varied. It’s the kind of art that instantly looks both atmospheric and silly- somehow striking a perfect balance between the two.

Beyond the Stars is a good introduction to BOOM!’s character. It gets a three and a half out of five excelsiors.

*** ½

+ Strikes a balance between humour and darkness

+ Benjamin is a great character

+ Art is both silly and atmospheric

-Not enough in the story

Alternate Option: Soldier Zero: One Small Step for Man


Another one of BOOM!’s “Stan Lee Specials”, worth a look.