Collecting 1995’s Starjammers #1-4, 2004’s Starjammers #1-6, and material from 1993’s X-Men Unlimited #32, this sweet little tome brings together the best solo missions of the space renegades known as the Starjammers!
The Starjammers have always been one of my favorite little oddities of the X-Men line. They’re essentially a bunch of badass space outlaws (one of whom just happens to be Cyclops’ long-lost father) who are just trying to help the helpless, even when it gets in the way of their own sense of peace. They thrive on war (some more than others) and they have that same sense of being “misfits who found one another” that the more well-known earthbound X-Men have on lock.
What’s really cool about these two minis is how clear their inspirations come across while reading, or even just looking at them. Both seem to have been tonally and aesthetically inspired by anime, but two very different eras of popular anime. The first series has a very Spaceship Yamato or Macross feel to it, with many of the ship designs having that kind of “lived-in” feel of Space Pirate Captain Harlock. As impressive as all of this tech would be to us, it’s just barely getting the job done for our heroes, who are very aware of the thin ice they’re always on. Meanwhile, the second series has a cleaner, “newer” feel to it, akin to Evangelion or Gundam Wing. The character designs also kind of lean into the aesthetics of those shows, as well. I’m not saying that’s where they came from, but they definitely bring to mind fond memories of those series.
The first miniseries has a particularly dark bend to it, especially when the true nature and purpose of the series’ villains is revealed. I won’t spoil it here, but it’s very much in line with the kind of radical villains that Warren Ellis is so adept at creating. The only drawback to these villains, the Uncreated, is how little we actually see of them. We see their ships and know they’re a force to be reckoned with, but other than their spectacularly twisted motivations, we don’t really get a feel for them as characters.
Luckily, the first miniseries is very much focused on the inner workings of Corsair and the crew of the Starjammer. The two who get the most amount of time devoted to them are Corsair and Hepzibah, who have very different ideas of what “enjoying life” exactly entails. Hepzibah wants to keep living her life the way she always has, without allowing herself to be disappointed by the disloyalty of others. Corsair, meanwhile, is a man who wants to keep doing the right thing, regardless of legality, even as he hopes to eventually be able to trust the people in power to do help. It’s a really strong balance of viewpoints that makes the reader wonder which one is correct.
Before you think it’s all heavy conversations and crises of conscience, have no fear. The dialogue has Warren Ellis’ trademark sarcasm, with members of the crew quipping in the face of certain death. Then, of course, there are the space battles, which are quick but tense, and drawn wonderfully by Carlos Pacheco.
The second miniseries, written by Kevin J. Anderson, just didn’t grab me the way the first one did. Unfortunately, it’s two issues longer than the first mini. Much of the story feels like it could have slotted in original characters to tell its tale and a good chunk of it is simply an extended action sequence. Ale Garza’s artwork is decent, particularly in regards to the designs of the characters and their very expressive faces, but many of the backgrounds end up being very bare or nonexistent. This occasionally results in some of the fight scenes looking like two or more characters are tussling in a void.
The heady themes of the first miniseries are not evident here, which is a shame. There are some hints of a thread about learning to outgrow the culture that has raised you, but it feels more like set dressing. Not every story needs to have a deeper message, but this second miniseries does stand out as somewhat hollow when one has just read the previous miniseries in the same collection. Maybe it would have done better in its own trade, safe from direct comparison to what came before. It’s not a bad story by any means, just one that we’ve seen before plenty of times.
In other words, this collection is the very definition of a mixed bag. While the first chunk of the series is some of the best sci-fi ’90s Marvel had to offer, the second one feels somehow inconsequential, even though it involves many of the same characters. Still, it’s worth a read for that first mini and an amusing backup story in the middle of the book, written by John Ostrander and featuring some lovely artwork by Ian Gibson.
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