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Dreadstar December — Dreadstar #13

The second year of the title begins with more build-up and hints of what’s to come.

Dreadstar #13 (“Bad Dreams”) by Jim Starlin doesn’t exactly get the book back on track, but does point the upcoming conflict between Dreadstar and Company, and the Lord High Papal and his forces. It actually begins with Starlin showing us how the first meeting of the Lord High Papal and Vanth Dreadstar will go: the sword is destroyed and, without its protection, Vanth rapidly agres, becoming an old man soon to die, defeated by the Lord High Papal. It’s presented as a dream that Willow has that she doesn’t know what to do with. That the confrontation comes next issue is a choice that has me debating if it’s worse or better than if it came many issues later. Starlin basically spoils the end of the next issue, but who really believes this will happen? Did anyone think Dreadstar would actually lose to the Papal?

The rest of the issue is the crew preparing for an eventual confrontation with the Lord High Papal as Vanth and Syzygy spar with one another, Oedi with some robots, and Willow gives the newly joined Dr. Delphi armour containing a field medical kit. In this, Starlin focuses on the individual characters. We get more hints of the past between Willow and Delphi in addition to his feelings for her, Skeevo shares an amusing story about his childhood, and we learn that Syzygy is, in fact, dead. That last revelation is a bit of a startling one, revealed through a great visual sequence of his flesh melting off in a reflection in some water that Vanth sees. He tries to ask Syzygy about it, but the mystic stops him, telling him, basically, that he knows but also can’t know. All that’s holding Syzygy together at this point is his own belief that he’s still alive. His force of will is strong enough to sustain him. Oedi already knew because of his advanced senses, again showing us that he’s probably the most mature member of the group. He’s able to deal with harsh realities better than the rest. He understands situations and doesn’t feel a need to make a big deal out of it. Vanth nearly kills Syzygy because he’s too dim to leave it alone.

For all that doesn’t happen, Starlin’s art in this issue is some of his best. The page where Willow wakes up from her dream is some masterful use of light and dark, using more sophisticated shading than I’ve seen elsewhere in a couple of the panels. There’s some good physical comedy in Skeevo’s story about a frozen cat that’s brought back to life. The way he paces that story, breaking it up with two pages of Oedi fighting a couple of robots, is very good. It’s literally ‘alright, it’s been long enough since the last action scene, FIGHT!’

We also learn the truth about Infra Red and Ultra Violet and their origin. They were given powers in the wake of the nuclear attack that the Lord High Papal ordered back in issue three, but think that Dreadstar is responsible. They’re being of ‘vast power’ we’re told and the issue ends with them and the Lord High Papal arriving for a fight.

While last issue was more of a goof where nothing happens, this one has some solid character moments. The Syzygy revelation is the biggest. He’s been a constant presence in the book, but we haven’t learned much about him since The Price and this only adds to that story. He actually gave up his life for this power… only it was enough that he hasn’t actually died.

Next issue: Dreadstar vs. the Lord High Papal… and Dreadstar loses.

7 Comments

One of the worst covers I think, kind of “let’s throw everyone onto a white background either fighting or trying to look dramatic, oh yeah, and a big really bulky man’s skeleton too. And some robots.”

And speaking of sophisticated shading, how about that one big black tit-shadow on Willow’s otherwise unshaded, non-contoured, paper-flat torso. But we can still see she has nice tits without a single crease of fabric. Hey, it’s the cover, after all! With Vanth’s new skin-tight costume, maybe he was just tired of drawing fabric. Cool set-up for next issue’s big fight, though. I think I still have that issue.

The water reflection moment was haunting. And I rather liked the introductions of Infrared and Ultraviolet as well. I’m not sure I would blame Vanth for his reaction to seeing Syzygy’s skeleton, though. It was a very reasonable reaction at the circunstances, albeit a dangerous one. But for all he knew his vision could be a precognition of some kind or something, and it makes tactical sense to be as aware as reasonably possible of the dangers and shortcomings of all his allies.

One of my favourite issues which leads up to the first big confrontation between HLP and Vanth with lots of characterization exploration.

The revelation behind Syzygy’s “price” that he had to pay for the power he’d received in “The Price” was quite revealing.

It’s quite unfair to label Vanth as dimwitted, as he is quite genius in strategic warfare. But when it comes to people, well, I’d admit that he’s a bit slow on the uptake. He can probably outwit people in terms of fighting because he’s been conditioned or trained that way, so it’s not surprising that he might be socially awkward in personal sitiuation.

@ Chad: I’m just curious, did someone donate their entire set of Dreadstar to you to review or what, you went back-issue shopping?

I’ve borrowed my dad’s copies.

Hope he doesn’t miss ‘em. ;-)

I wonder if that big reveal for Syzygy came out of an art goof or was it something that Starlin planned? In some earlier issues Starlin drew Syzygy with his cybernetic eye on the opposite side. This difference was picked up by a few fans and discussed in the letter pages — then an issue or two later we get this infodump about Syzygy.

Seems very coincidental.

My favorite visual gag in the series: As Oedi throws the head of one of the robots he’s just defeated at Skeevo in retaliation for the horrible joke he’s just old, in the next panel you see Vanth, Syzygy and Doc Delphi look at the head as it rolls past them!

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