rating: 3 of 5 stars
This is the volume where original artist Tony Harris left and original (and legendary) editor Archie Goodwin died. I knew that my enjoyment of the series took a hit about this time, but I'd never quite put it together that this was why.
The look of the book became less consistent, and often the art didn't quite fit the tone of the story. There's a lot of good, even great, art here, but there is also some artwork that was on the weak side, especially compared to the visual tone Harris and Von Grawbadger had set. On top of that, some of Robinson's writer's tics, notably his tendency to have the characters go off on esoteric pop culture tangents in the middle of situations in which no human being ever would be thinking about pop culture tangents, became exaggerated. And his tweaking of the Golden Age characters (and even modern age characters) that were the foundation for Starman's world got a touch out of hand.
Examples: The Black Canary/Ted Knight affair which, while handled reasonably well, essentially needlessly tarnished both characters. The slaughter of a few C-list characters to show how deadly the Mist was, which wasn't terribly effective given that Robinson had to cheat how the powers/vulnerabilities of said characters work in order to make her so effective. And the Sadie "reveal" took an already somewhat annoying character and made her situation cartoonish. In fact, that whole "romance" annual is one of the low points of the series, in terms of art and writing.
That said, there's still plenty to like here. While Robinson's Batman is a bit off, the rest of the story featuring Jack and friends going into Solomon Grundy's consciousness ala Moore's Swamp Thing was a great take on the Grundy character and a pretty entertaining read. The Shade miniseries was a lot of fun, even though The Shade tended to be a character where Robinson could really indulge his tendency to overwrite. And the Dr. Pip story, while a bit disjointed thanks to its meanderings into other plots and subplots, is a pretty decent bit of Golden Age style mad bomber story brought into Starman's retro-modern superhero style.
The book regains a bit of its even keel when Peter Snejbjerg steps in as regular artist, but even then Robinson's tendency to meander does damage to both Jack's space odyssey and the Grand Guignol story that closes everything out. In a lot of ways, the first two volumes are Starman at its best. This is the book at its weakest, but even at its weakest, there are spots that really shine. If I could, I'd give it 3 and 1/2 stars, and even knowing every beat of where we're going from here isn't for me, I know that I love so much of it that I'll definitely pick up the final hardcovers.
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