Dreadstar December — Dreadstar #24
Jim Starin doesn’t draw this issue!
Dreadstar #24 (“Violation!”) by Jim Starlin and Jim Sherman is the only issue I’ll be discussing that Starlin writes but doesn’t draw. It’s also a visually-driven issue, making the lack of Starlin a bit of a gut-punch. Why couldn’t it have been one of the boring issues? Why, Starlin? In this issue, Monalo goes after Willow and we get a mindwar. That means trippy environments, weird character shifts, and some crazy-ass shit. Sherman’s style is more illustrative, a little more detailed and, yet, his characters have a flattered, more simple look to them. His style is a little stiffer, not as fluid or natural as Starlin’s. He definitely brings a different flavour to the issue. One panel of Monalo laughing like a maniacal clown just seems out of place — despite looking good. It doesn’t fit with how Monalo behaves… at any other time. Otherwise, Sherman does a great job at capturing the uneasy, weird feeling of the mental battle, colouring his own art, too. That really pays off in a later scene where Willow thinks she’s killed Monalo and Vanth appears, confessing his love for her and, as he holds her, he becomes he father and is coloured in an extra-creepy way.
The entire issue is Monalo doing his best to break down Willow’s mind by assaulting it. He makes her think her body is decaying or shows her her mother who then rips her head open and a bunch of insects come out. Or, he transports her to a hellish landscape where her reflection is a rotted corpse. Plus, the stuff with Vanth/her father. Monalo uses her own insecurities and issues against her, playing upon her greatest desires and fears. She ultimately breaks and Monalo stands triumphant, the issue ending with the Lord High Papal snuffing the final candle.
I wonder how this issue would have looked if Starlin did the art, but I’m ultimately satisfied with what we get here. Starlin’s writing is loose and, yet, logical. Monalo is methodical in tearing Willow’s defences down, leaving her a broken husk by the end of the issue. It’s like a twisted retelling of Willow’s past. Not much actually happens, but it’s a very strong depiction of this fight.
Tomorrow: the trial!