Review - Starlight #1

"I feel like an idiot."

Death is never easy to cope with for those who live on, especially when that death comes to someone as close as a spouse. Regardless of what the person is doing or has done in life, a loss such as that hits hard and presents a bunch of questions asked of one's self. Typically though, the past actions aren't quite nearly as daring as those of Duke McQueen in Starlight #1 from Image Comics. The issue is written by Mark Millar, illustrated by Goran Parlov, colored by Ive Svorcina and lettered by Marko Šunjić.

Forty years ago, Duke McQueen was the space hero who saved the universe. In the present, he's faced with an empty house, thanks to his boys growing up and moving out and his wife's recent death, leaving him alone with nothing but memories. His stories are perceived as rantings of a lunatic and he's struggling to find some normalcy in the wake of his tragic loss. Things are going along about as well as can be expected, until a call comes from a distant world asking him back for his final and greatest adventure.

As a character, Duke McQueen is written by Millar with an impeccable sense of time; that is, he's confronted by two vastly different versions of himself. One version is the younger, more daring Duke, who saved a planet from a ruthless dictator and was heralded as a hero. The other is an older, more emotionally satisfied Duke, who married his best friend, raised two boys to be successful and seemed to enjoy life. It's not as if he's two different people at different points in his life; rather, his approach simply adapts to the life he's leading. Millar does a great job showing this dichotomy as well, weaving together his more dangerous exploits as a youth with the more mundane routines he's settled into. Losing one's spouse is a truly devastating event and while Duke's relative emptiness is appropriately masked by his desire to appear fine.

Parlov's illustrations present a brutish looking Duke, clearly physically capable of saving worlds whether he's young or old. The younger Duke carries a brash smile on his face throughout all his flashbacks, whereas the older Duke wears a sullen expression like an albatross around his neck. Many of the panels showing the tedium of everyday life feel sufficiently monotonous when compared to the extraterrestrial adventures, something which Parlov does well to further accent Millar's characterization of Duke. One thing that stands out about the characters otherwise is that Parlov tends to draw most of the faces as if they're looking down, which could be by design because of the gravity of the situation that brings them all together.

On its surface, Starlight #1 is a nod to John Carter and Flash Gordon. Once you dig a little deeper though, you'll see that Millar has infused the book with themes of mortality, relevance and the sense of one's place within the greater picture. Duke is a man who fought dragons and evil princes, but is flattened by the death of his wife. And the fact that he's viewed as something of a lunatic for his "stories" about the other planet only further motivates him to lead a normal life, something that's taken from him almost instantly. The art team handles the character very deftly and gives the reader a great sense of who Duke thinks he is and who others around Duke thinks he is. Starlight #1 could easily become just another stranger out of place space tale, but here's hoping Millar keeps it a bit more introspective than that.

Starlight #1 hits stores March 5 with interiors below.