Shatterstar has always appealed to me for a litany of reasons. First, you have his badass designs. His classic look, with the long hair, facial buttress, and general over-the-top ’90s masculinity. His newer look, with what looks like black and white sports wear. Plus, his eye tattoo and blades look great in any era. Add in the fact that he’s one of Marvel’s most prominent queer male characters, and I’m eager to check out anything he’s in. Imagine my excitement then, when his new solo miniseries was announced. After months of anticipation the first issue has arrived, but does it live up to the hype? Is Shatterstar #1 good?
Given that Shatterstar has mainly just been featured in team books, this series’s creative team had their work cut out for them when crafting a setting that would enable him to succeed as a lone protagonist. That’s exactly what they do here, though. In just twenty-some pages, we learn about Shatterstar’s gladiator past, current status as a landlord, romantic history with Rictor, and motivations for the issues to come. Even more impressive than the amount of ground covered here is the finesse with which it is tackled. The pacing is on-point; almost none of the events feel too quickly or slowly resolved.
This firm establishment of setting is especially important as it lays a vital foundation for the character. It will be much more satisfying to see where Shatterstar goes by the series’s end now that we know where he’s been, and where he mentally is right now. A lot of this issue’s page-time is devoted to ‘Star’s everyday interactions with his tenants, which provide writer Tim Seeley with plenty of opportunity to show off his wit. ‘Star’s building is full of characters who, like himself, hail from alternate universes. The differences between said universes are a good source of comedy, and there is a lot of enjoyable wordplay as well.
Unfortunately, Seeley seems to run out of steam near the issue’s end. A pivotal scene at ‘Star’s apartment building doesn’t live up to its full potential, as Seeley seems to be checking off boxes on a to-do list. Antagonists are introduced, and while we learn about their past connections to Shatterstar, they still don’t feel vital to the series’s plot. This is due largely to Seeley’s overreliance on captions as a venue for exposition dumping. It’s not always a bad thing for writers to tell, but it’s still more enjoyable when they at least show some aspects of a story without spelling them out.
Art-wise, I have mixed feelings about this issue. Gerardo Sandoval does a fantastic job with the flashback scenes, which are simultaneously grisly and over-the-top. They’re really good displays of gladiatorial violence, and contrast well with the present day scenes’ visuals. These portions of the book are drawn by Carlos Villa and inked by Juan Vlasco, who also do a solid job. The characters’ facial expressions are emotive and the flow of action across scenes is usually quite good. With that said, the pair’s work doesn’t fully tap into the zaniness of Shatterstar’s premise. There are multiple times when characters’ movements seem a bit off, and when the line-work lacks a certain crispness. Fortunately, Carlos Lopez and VC’s Cory Petit do a good job on the issue’s coloration and lettering, so the visuals still look solid all around.
Overall, Shatterstar #1 is a promising start to the series. A lot of context is provided in quick fashion, and most of it is done without a hitch. There’s also some badass art in flashbacks to ‘Star’s gladiator days. Unfortunately the present day art, though solid, lacks the same level of distinct personality. The ending of the issue also gets weaker narratively, as the conflict is trotted out without much actual substance behind it. Nonetheless, I’m excited to see where the series goes from here.