rating: 5 of 5 stars
After re-reading this recently, I think that this book, only about twenty issues into the series' run, might represent the pinnacle of Starman. Which is not to say that the rest of the run is bad (although I am in the camp that views Tony Harris as the definitive Starman artist, even if he wasn't the artist for the majority of the series' run), but just that I don't know if it ever got as good as the stories in this issue.
The "Sand and Stars" arc which showed us the modern day Wesley Dodds and Dian Belmont from Sandman Mystery Theatre was a terrific conclusion, of sorts, to the romance and adventure that those two shared throughout the Wagner/Seagle series. Robinson tended to be a little too in love with the Golden Age characters in some ways, with a need to "real them up" (witness the unfortunate decision to add an extramarital affair for Ted Knight and Black Canary), but with Wes and Dian, that whole vibe really works, given that Seagle and Wagner had given them much the same treatment. "Sand and Stars" feels like a good homage to the pulp adventures of Sandman Mystery Theatre, and in many ways, Starman was the descendant of that book... hip enough to attract the more indie-minded, but knowledgeable about the superhero continuity it was working with and with an appreciation for that as well.
One of my all-time favorite stories, the Christmas story, is also in this one. It's always brought a tear to my eye, and re-reading it for the fifth or sixth time here had the same effect.
Even the Shade stories, which tended to be a little self-indulgent as they went on, were pretty good here. Shade turning down Neron's offer was a nice little snap at DC's editorial dictates and one of DC's most underwhelming crossovers (and crossover villains). Shade teaming up with Dr. Fate was a lot of fun. And Shade being the one left to tell children tales of the dead earth was a great tie-in to another mostly terrible editorial remit, the "Tales of the Dead Earth" annuals. Robinson is one of those writers who generally took an editorial idea that mostly weakened other books, acting as a straightjacket, and used it as a springboard, a writing challenge, to create something different, in line with the theme, but perfectly in line with the book.
There's also another terrific "Talking With David" issue, the "Times Past" with Mikaal in the '70s, the three-part tale of Shade, the O'Dares and Jack Knight taking on Merritt, the immortal with a demon poster... it really is like a "best of" for the series, when everyone started to hit their stride.
Though they aren't the only artists represented here, Harris and Von Grawbadger do the bulk of the art, and their work here is phenomenal.
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