Axel-In-Charge: Extending "Secret Wars," Excitement for a "Totally Awesome Hulk"
Are you prepared to learn the secrets of Z? Really? You think you are? Well, I don’t! I THINK THEY’LL BLOW YOUR TINY LITTLE MIND! But, I can’t really stop you from reading this post, so…
Dreadstar #9 (“Confrontation”) by Jim Starlin is the first of two issues that contain different, richer and more textured colouring by Starlin’s then-wife Daina Graziunas. It has a water colour look to it that I rather like, but, as we learned in the letters page of issue 11, the reaction was negative and it cost more, so… Still, I think it suits the tone of the book better than regular comic book colouring of the time. While the book is an action-adventure book, the regular colouring presents it a little lighter and fluffier than I’d like. This has that ‘mature’ feel to it that complements Starlin’s writing and art a little better. But, I’m disagreeing with decisions that were made 26 years ago and that doesn’t seem like a productive use of this post.
The main focus of this issue is the titular confrontation between Dreadstar and Z, who he thinks is the resurrected Aknaton, but is actually… the last surviving Zygotean! Swerve! Basically, Dreadstar fights against Z, but is subdued thanks to Z’s abilities and the cyborg King Gregzor he has as his controlled lackey. We then learn his true identity and how we was in a ship at the outer reaches of the Milky Way, saw what was going down, and did his best to escape. He went into cryogenic suspension and had his ship follow the bubble containing Dreadstar and Aknaton, landing on Caldor with them. He then desecrated Aknaton’s grave, left the planet and joined the Monarchy — he was even the one who suggested the attack on Caldor, killing Oedi’s people and Dreadstar’s wife. All Zygoteans are missing their left arms, but this one is a genetic mutant, missing his right arm instead. He leaves Dreadstar hanging in a room with a bomb set to go off in an hour. Except a ship crashes into the palace after being shot down during the Instrumentality invasion of Jewelworld.
A fairly major issue, but a big chunk is taken up with the reveal of Z and the putting into place of plans. Lots of posturing and talking with a little bit of action. Together with issue ten, this is the fall of the Monarchy, all for revenge against Vanth Dreadstar. The reveal of Z as a Zygotean is a bit of a cheat with the reversal of the missing arm and literally no other clues beyond knowing of Dreadstar in advance and Aknaton’s empty grave. I wonder if Starlin always meant to go with the Zygotean instead of Aknaton. If this had happened now, we would probably accuse Starlin of changing his plans because someone on the internet had guessed the solution, but that Dreadstar was convinced that it was Aknaton makes me think that this was always the plan. It wasn’t meant to be a ‘fair’ mystery, because it was never meant to be ‘fair’ to Dreadstar. It wasn’t a mystery to be solved, because Z wasn’t leaving a bunch of clues around. It was a mystery that Dreadstar fabricated and created a false solution that we went along with. The false solution blinded us to any other options… not that any other were presented.
I really like the art in this issue. The colours mesh fantastically with Starlin’s pencils. He’s back to inking himself and the line work is definitely better for it. There aren’t many panels that look unfinished, all looking roughly equal. He uses some cool grid layouts before switching things up for bigger layouts for the fight between Z and Dreadstar. The fight is short because of Gregzor taking Dreadstar out and I like that. We get a tease of the fight between the two, allowing for next issue to give us the resolution we want.
Next issue: the war ends and the galaxy loses.
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