23
Feb
10

Issue #3: Night F(l)ight

The cover here seems to tell a fair amount of the story as far as the fight is concerned. Kyle, in the background, is looking beaten and bloody while Jack looks determined (and triumphant?) in the foreground. We see some of Jack’s tattoos: a skull on the abdomen, the compass rose from the title graphic at left of the center of his upper body, and a dragon of Asian influence on his left shoulder.

That out of the way, saddle up. This one’s a rocky ride.

Sea Monkeys, Karloff, a jolly roger, strange heart like sculptures…right, we’re at Jack’s place. So are the O’Dares. We open with Jack finally thinking about the situation he’s in and about his brother. Stress will do that to you; things flood suddenly. The deal with the Mist is fleshed out more here thanks to Hope O’Dare’s quick recap. In case you forgot, Jack isn’t a hero. He hates the idea. On the other hand, he sure doesn’t act like he hates it when he’s out there. I love the layers Robinson created with this character.

In the flashback, David’s got this really goofy look on his face. It kind of reminds me of the bully from Calvin and Hobbes. I like this scene for its “Rashamon” feel: the disconnect between what was in the past and what we want to remember. It’s also a good scene for the mention of the JSA and the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, but something deep in me thrills at seeing any instance of JSA. Huh… Ted might have been right after all, there’s always been something of the hero in Jack.

As we cut to Nash and Kyle, it’s interesting to note that she’s not stuttering. Kyle is awful sure of himself here. Given the little he’s seen of Jack, maybe that’s not unfair. He’s got Jack pegged fairly well at a glance. From issue 0 to now, there hasn’t been much to think that Jack is more than the dilettante that Kyle paints him to be. It’s a nice touch that Jack puts on the goggles and Nash gives his sunglasses away before he leaves. The World’s Fair poster here is especially nice for those that read Roy Thomas’s All Star Squadron. The Trylon and Perisphere were home to the super team fighting and protecting America during World War Two. Coincidentally, Jesse found this brief article about the whole idea behind the fair with great pictures of the real life Trylon.

The fight scene is nice for the fluidity of it both in a physical sense and in the sense of Jack’s thoughts. He’s fighting on autopilot just to survive. In a whole other world, he’s remembering his brother and thinking about his father. His thoughts about Ted here speak for themselves and are to some degree universal to all relationships with parents. When Jack’s mind and body both join the battle here, we get what is probably one of Jesse’s favorite lines in all of comics. I’ve heard or read him quote this Chris Isaak line a ton of times…and I’m still not sure who Chris Isaak is or what makes him so cool. I could look now, but not knowing is quite agreeable to me in this case.

Meanwhile…

Jesse mentioned in a previous entry that the museum was the Shade’s first heroic deed. Of the series? certainly. Ever? I’m not sure that’s the case. As we’ll see through the entire series, there is a definite morality to the character. Through his career he has done and will do many “good” things (I think primarily of the up coming issue involving Oscar Wilde and the Opal City of over a century ago). Because of his general nature, he tends to do them as brutally as the “bad” things. I mention this now because he appears here and we learn what his game is. Like Jack, he doesn’t really want the label hero. This whole scene he’s posturing, and you get the feeling that in his mind he’s playing this over the top character from a melodrama. All the while, he’s doing this good deed. There is a nice mirror to Jack’s denial of heroism here. Like Jack, he’s only doing this to protect his home.

I’m with Jack here. It doesn’t matter that it’s a Jerry Lewis book. You don’t tear comics in half like that. As we see, it’s these memories that are driving Jack and pushing him on in this fight.

So the Shade lays out the plan and how it has to be done making a reference to British espionage author Len Deighton. Robinson constantly name checks people and things that are interesting to him. If you find you’re really liking the series, it’s worth checking out most of the things he mentions. In this case, Deighton writes spy novels set in a more realistic and recognizable world than that of Ian Flemming’s James Bond. Back to the story though, wow. How bat-shit crazy do you have to be to use your arch-enemy’s family crypt as your base of operations?

Counting it out, Jack’s right. It’s hard to decide whether or not he should even like David. Four of the seven memories are pretty negative and harsh. But as Jack points out true family forgives faults and slights. He also admits it was a two way street. Jack was no innocent victim, but again, that’s family. Driving the cosmic rod into Kyle’s chest mirrors the attack on the Ultra-Humanite in Golden Age. Not so coincidentally, this is how the cosmic rod’s twin was destroyed. Vowing never to kill again, mentally prepares himself for the role he’s going to accept by the end this issue. I like the idea of the Shade shepherding Jack into being a superhero.

Robinson’s been warning us that this is a story about generations. If you had any doubt, the Mist’s daughter is being carted away here by the cops. Like a good villain, she’s vowing revenge. A promise to return.

Jack and Ted are given a chilling look at how things could be for Ted given his age. Robinson wants the Mist to be a tragic figure here after all.

This observatory has been seen a couple of times. Ted is here in Golden Age, we also see him at this observatory in the 1991 JSA mini-series set in the 1950’s. I really like this scene between Jack and Ted because it touches on and handles an idea that’s always bothered me about these science heroes. Why isn’t the DC Universe or the Marvel Universe a truly better and more impressive place because of brilliant scientists like Ted Knight, Reed Richards, and Tony Stark? Bothers Jack too. So he makes a deal with his father. Use your tech to make the world a better place and I’ll protect Opal.

The two epilogues set up the idea that Robinson mentioned in a text piece about the importance of all who called themselves Starman. Epilogue one: weren’t we just talking about circuses? More on this when it comes up. The focuses on Mikaal Tomas who appeared in a single comic book back in 1976, 1st Issue Special #1: Starman. The one time we saw him, that gem was not embedded in his chest. More about him when we see him again.

Epilogue Two: Space… familiar to the fortune teller. We see a statue of Prince Gavyn: a Starman created by Paul Levitz and Steve Ditko in some early ’80’s issues of Adventure Comics. If memory serves, some of these issues also featured adventures of the E2 JSA.

Oh snap, that’s not Prince Gavyn. We’ve got us another Starman. Until present (in the series) Will Payton is the most recent Starman. The man “with the moon in his face” that is tied to Payton’s death is Eclipso. Why he’s being treated as a lab rat and how he’s still alive are mysteries for a much later date and a trip into Space.

On a logistics note, I’m going to work to have posts here on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays. Three a week is about all I can manage with a full time job and another blog.

See you Thursday.


There’s a lot about memories in issue 3.  Especially touching are the flashbacks, as Matt mentions.  Sure, some of them are negative, but Jack is the ass as often as David is.  And yet in spite of that he also remembers the good times.  Memories are tenuous things, as Robinson shows us, like when Jack first remembers David promising to grow up and be like Ted, then realizing it was him saying those things.  I also find Ted’s observation about the singer in the Hues Corporation sounding like Nat King Cole to be especially interesting, as I think we’ve all had those moments with our families.

I always thought that the trauma of Kyle’s death is what caused Nash to lose her stutter, but as Matt notices, she didn’t have it as he left for his fight with Jack.  Is this an oversight or by design?  He also calls me out for liking the line “COOL?  No way.  ‘Course, COMPARED to YOU…I’m Chris Isaak.”  For the life of me I don’t know why.  It stands out like a sore thumb, and Chris Isaak is only cool in an adult contemporary not-very-cool way, but it’s one of those lines that just defines Jack.  (I should point out that I’m not the only one fascinated by this particular phrase.)   As for the Shade, those Times Past stories may prove me  wrong, but I always get the impression from the museum scene that he’s as startled by his (own particular) brand of heroism as Jack is.

And now we get to the observations that can’t sustain full paragraphs:

  • This is the first we see of Jack’s tattoos.  We will eventually get the secret origin of the flying panther.
  • The Shade on page 10 bears a striking resemblance to the man in the Gotham poster on page 1.
  • “WAIT and see what I BECOME” is one of the most chilling lines in the book.  We will see Nash again, and she takes her role in Jack’s life extremely seriously.

Issue 3 is the first time we get a letter column in Starman.  Several letter writers compared the series favorably to the Ostrander/Mandrake Spectre series that was running at the same time.  I never read much of it, but I know Matt enjoyed it a great deal. In closing, I’d just like to throw out a couple quotes by Robinson as he addresses his characters and what will come in the series.

  • “I’d suggest that Starman is rather a discourse of the relevance of the past on the present…both in terms of actual events “then” and the rippling ramifications of them “now,”and in terms of the icons and thing of of times past that we carry with us into the present time.  If the subtext of STARMAN is one of the discourse on value, then it is that value of the past to the present.”
  • “David actually appeared in the (Will Payton) STARMAN comic in issues #26 and #27.  This is prior to ZERO HOUR unraveling and time doing the jitterbug with itself, so I’m not, nor ever intended to, follow that past continuity too slavishly.  The Mist becoming “Primus” and David Knight encountering Will Payton and everything that happened will never be mentioned to any great degree”
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