Thursday, June 11, 2015

This Week's Comics 6.11.15

Small week this week.  I picked up one comic and that one on a whim.   Honestly, I bought Starfire #1 based on the cover alone.  I mean, look at that:
It's a thing of beauty.  Not just because Starfire is an orange skinned alien princess, but the composition and coloring is scientifically designed to sell comics.  This is one of those covers that jumps off the shelf at you.

I have no idea who Starfire is really.  I laugh at her character on the Teen Titans Go! cartoon when my son is watching it, but other than that I know very little.  So, with this amazing cover and the also scientifically designed #1 tag, I figured this might be a great starting point for a new reader.

Well...the actual comic provides some of that opportunity, but it also falls victim to some of the common failures of modern comics.  There is a very nice and succinct expository moment at the very start of the the comic that explains all you need to know about who Starfire is.  That part is exceptional.  It gets you right into the action with knowledge of who the character and what her deal is.  And since it does in the course of 2 pages, you have the entire rest of the issue to tell a complete and compelling story that gets me anxious to read more.

But that's not exactly what we get.  What we get instead is yet another set-up issue.  Instead of being a self-contained story, this issue sets Starfire up and leaves us with a cliffhanger introduction to what appears to be the villain of the story.  Oh, sure there is conflict in the form of Starfire needs to fit into society and do things like find a job and a place to live, but those pedestrian concerns, while humorously written, are a bit mundane even by juxtaposition for the character we are meeting.  They also do not make for an interesting first story.  Finding a job and a place to live as PART of a full story wherein Starfire might also do something heroic, like save some innocents from peril or battle a villain would be a full, well-rounded story worthy of a single issue.  This used to be standard procedure for new comics once upon a time.  But all too often these days, the first issue is designed purely to set up the series or the next issue.  This is comic book extortion in a way, giving you half a product and charging you full price in the hopes you will pay full price again for the other part of the story.  It's ugly.  Marvel perfected this strategy in the early 2000's.  And honestly, it's part of why I left the hobby.  So at the end of this issue, Starfire appears shocked at the appearance of someone or something called "X'Hal."  I am going to assume this is a bad guy to be fought next issue.  A complete comic book would have told me...

That said, Starfire #1 does have a saving grace.  Despite being a set-up issue, it is very well scripted and its tone is upbeat and fun.  Starfire herself is smartly naive and cheery and her supporting cast provides a nice, not overdone, human contrast to her alien nature.   She is instantly likeable in her Mork-ness without it being cliche or forced.  This is good as her supporting characters need to like her and want to help her as much as we do.  Since we don't get a full story this issue, we don't get to see too much diversity in her characterization, but what we do see holds a lot of promise.   Amanda Conner clearly has a talent for scripting and I'm willing to bet plotting as well.  Set-up issues are generally an editorial decision dictated by the accounting office.  I honestly believe good writers want to write full stories.  I hope we get to see the full brunt of her talent as the series goes on.  From what I read she is getting rave reviews on the Harley Quinn comic.

I'm still waffling on whether or not I pick up issue #2.  Maybe if I get another eye-catching cover, I can be more easily persuaded.  There is certainly something here worth considering...

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