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Dreadstar December — Dreadstar #4

What craziness does Jim Starlin have in store this time around? Why, an assassination attempt! Fun!

Dreadstar #4 (“The Hand of Darkness”) by Jim Starlin turns the spotlight towards the Monarchy a little as Dreadstar and Company go to the Monarchy capital world to deliver the tele-drives. There, they’re greeted by the King and his right-hand man, Z. In red mechanical armour with a cloak, the one-armed mystery is a little reminiscent visually of Darth Vader, no doubt purposefully so. He immediately draws your attention. He and the King have their cyborg army attacked Dreadstar and Company (that’s what the cover depicts — I love the cyborg army designs). It’s ‘all a test,’ of course, and, then, the issue becomes about preventing the Lord High Papal’s assassination attempt on the King.

One of the big conflicts centres on Oedi whose entire species was wiped out by Monarchy forces. He hates the Monarchy in a way the others don’t — not even Vanth who wife was killed in the same attack. Maybe that’s because Vanth killed the previous King, the man who was ultimately responsible. He got some measure of revenge, while Oedi hasn’t yet. Because Oedi is the one that hates the King the most, he’s the one who stops the assassin. The assassin wears a cloaking/changeling net sort of suit, able to take the identity of others. But, that can’t fool Oedi’s advanced senses. Their brief fight on a balcony is pretty cool as Starlin drops out the backgrounds as they spar until the panel where the assassin goes over the edge — then, the panel borders and background come back. He does something similar during the fight with the cyborg army, dropping out the backgrounds most of the time. It places the emphasis on the fighting.

The cyborg army fight also uses an interesting layout for the main conflict: one two facing pages, they mirror one another with three tiers. One large panel per tier, one smaller. In the large one, the fight goes on; in the small one, Z. and the King watch, facing the action panel — on the first page, Z. does all of the talking with him closest to us; on the second page, since the action is on the other side, they face the other way and the King is closest, so he does all of the talking. I love layouts like this.

The ending of the issue has an interesting scene between the Lord High Papal and his seeming right-hand man as he informs the Papal that, not only did the assassin fail, Dreadstar and his crew still live. Vanth and Syzygy survived the nuclear attack on Chichano last issue. The right-hand man then turns on the Lord High Papal, revealing that his daughter lived in Chichano — and then blasting the Papal. But, that does nothing and the Papal kills him. The final four panels of the issue mirror the final four of the last issue.

First panel: issue 3 — Vanth with his head in his hands; issue 4 — Papal standing over the dead body.

Second panel: issue 3 — close-up of Vanth’s face as he looks up and yells “DAMN YOU, LORD PAPAL!”; issue 4 — close-up of the Papal’s face as he yells “DAMN YOU, VANTH DREADSTAR!”

Third panel: issue 3 — Vanth looks up, fists clenched and rised to his midsection, screaming up “DAMN YOUR MAD WAR!”; issue 4 — the Papal is in the exact same pose, screaming “DAMN YOUR INTERFERENCE!”

Fourth panel: issue 3 — a shot of Dreadstar and Company’s ship with a word balloon coming out of it that says “DAMN IT ALL.”; issue 4 — a shot of the Instrumentality headquarters with a word balloon coming out of it that says “DAMN IT ALL…”

It’s a weird sort of mirroring. Vanth is upset because the Lord High Papal makes him an unwitting accomplice in murder; the Papal is upset because Vanth makes him kill people. There’s a twisted symmetry there that reveals a lot about the Papal’s mindset. He’s clearly ‘evil,’ but this is the first instance where there’s a hint of something there. Right after he kills a man. Or is it just frustration at his plans being thwarted? I like the ambiguity. Starlin teases us with the Lord High Papal having depth and… reasons. But, does he?

Tomorrow, we meet Tuetun…


Ryan Vaughn Morris

December 4, 2010 at 11:22 pm

Jim Starlin LOVED drawing white afros.

YES, glad someone mentioned that. Gotta have a white guy with an afro and goatee in every Starlin comic! Also shoulder epaulets and repetitive panel frames! Gotta love it.

I noticed the simetry at the time, but it didn’t occur to me that it might be a hint of depth. What I thought was that both scenes underlined the essential futility of the warrior lifestyle – a recurring theme in Starlin’s work, going all the way back to the Captain Marvel stories and certainly not absent in Dreadstar. Every time either Papal or Dreadstar attain a significant victory, the other feels spurred into even bolder action himself. It is that realization that frustrates them so much in the closing scenes of #3 and #4, IMO.

Luis, that’s a great point. Almost every victory is undercut by a smaller defeat/cost. No one ever really ‘wins’ anything in this comic.

And who doesn’t love the white afro?

Tom Fitzpatrick

December 5, 2010 at 8:01 am

“And who doesn’t love the white afro?” That white afro is soooo ’70’s. Gotta love the Starlin way.

Anyway, reading this blog reminds me of that catchword phrase you read so much about in WATCHMEN, “Who Watches the Watchmen?”
I over-heard a bizarre conversation between a mother and her son, in which I call “Who Reviews the Reviewers?”

Mom: What are you looking at on your lapthing, not those disgusting porn sites?
Son: No, ma, I’m just reading another blog by those comic book site.
Mom: Full of sexual deviancy and subservisive politic statements, no doubt!!!
Son: No, ma, It’s about that canuck guy, Chad Nevitt, reviewing books for a month.
Mom: A CANADIAN??!?!??!!! STay away from those people!!! They’re all a bunch of criminal sexual perverts that corrupts good Americans!!!!
Son: But, ma, he not only lives in U.S., but he’s reviewing Dreadstar by Jim Starlin.
Mom: That fine american book written and drawn by that fine american artist?
Son: Yeah, ma.
Mom: Oh, well, I guess that Chucky guy isn’t so bad after all.
Son: That’s Chad, ma.
Mom: What-EV-er, those canuck people look and think all alike. ;-)

Not exactly a true story, but if it were, that’s how it should go, eh?

It’s true what Oscar Wilde said about you, Chad: “The only thing worst than being talked about is NOT being talked about”.
‘course, except when Olivia Wilde says to you in her husky bi-sexual voice: “The only thing I’d want to talk about, IS you!!!” ;-

I didn´t catch the parallelism! That´s neat.

The funny thing is, I did remember that scene with the HLP killing his general. “You mad dog bastard!” ZAPP. And if you´re still remembering something 25 years after the last reading, then yeah, some props apply.

Doug M.

Tom Fitzpatrick

December 5, 2010 at 6:50 pm

@ Chad Nevitt: From one crazy canuck to another, can you do me (or your fans) a favour and put a Dreadstar December – Archives link at the top somewhere?

At the rate of other posts appearing, all your previous posts on this subject is vanishing very quickly. An archives link will give us the opportunity to check on what we missed.

Dread Lord and Master, Mr. B.C. often uses this for his daily-yearly posts.

There is the Dreadstar December listing at the side, under categories, Tom (it may be at the bottom of the page, depending on your browser). I know I’ll be checking it whenever I get around to pulling out my Dreadstar.

But a link at the top of the page is good too.

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