Axel-In-Charge: Extending "Secret Wars," Excitement for a "Totally Awesome Hulk"
Every day this year, I will be examining the first pages of random comics. As it’s now December, I will be examining the LAST pages of random comics, so watch out for SPOILERS! Today’s page is from Starman #80, which was published by DC and is cover dated August 2001. Enjoy!
Comics fans who began reading in this decade or at the end of last decade might wonder what the big deal is about James Robinson, because they were never privy to Nineties James Robinson, who wrote a bunch of excellent comics, including Starman, a masterful series that managed to be nostalgic yet forward-looking while somehow integrating several odd strands of DC history into it. In the last issue, Jack Knight – Starman – decides to leave his home, Opal City, and head to San Francisco, where his girlfriend and their child are now living. This is a big deal, as Jack loves Opal and has never conceived of leaving it, but his love for Sadie is so great that he decides to stop being Starman and move away. He’s narrating this page, obviously, and on the previous page, he said he was going to make like a banana, hence the way the page begins. In a few words, Robinson manages to capture the feelings of anyone who has ever left home – Jack cries, but doesn’t look back, because he knows that the future is limitless. It’s a wonderful way for the series to end, and the fact that DC can’t use Jack Knight without Robinson’s permission means that he’s been happily living in San Francisco for the past decade.
The series’ second main artist, Peter Snejbjerg, finishes up the run with a beautiful drawing of Opal and the surrounding countryside. There’s a reason Opal City has no suburbs and the plains start immediately outside of it, but I’m not going into it here. Snejbjerg never made Opal quite as Art Deco as Tony Harris, the original artist, did, but you can still see how unusual the buildings of the city are. Snejbjerg is quite good at using shadows, and he highlights the architecture by inking parts of the buildings heavily to make the features stand out more clearly. The road and the telephone poles lead our eye out from the city to Jack’s station wagon (I’m sure at some point we find out what kind of car it is, but I can’t remember and I don’t really need to know right now – it’s probably a Studebaker or a Packard or something like that) as he leads us off the page – it’s not a terribly clever design for the page by Snejbjerg, but it is quite effective. The literal road is hidden from us as the page ends just as Jack’s “road” is hidden from us. Notice that Jack is a terrible father – that kid is probably three years old or younger (comic book time being what it is), yet he’s riding in the front seat with no car seat. Really, Jack? Make sure your kid is safe, man! Gregory Wright colors this page well, as Opal is all sleek blue and even the browns look modern, while the greens of the surrounding countryside stand in contrast to the city, balancing the modernism of the city with the nostalgia that suffuses the entire series. In one image, Robinson, Snejbjerg, and Wright manage to evoke the tone of the entire series. That’s not bad.
Starman is a wonderful comic, and you should all go read it. Macht schnell!
Next: Hey, it’s the last day of the year! I can’t believe I made it. To celebrate, we’ll look at the last page of my favorite runs in history. Yes, sharp readers will notice I’ve already featured this issue’s first page, but I love it so much! Find it in the archives to prepare yourselves for tomorrow!
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