Out this week in comic book shops, Kelly Thompson’s brand new “hero” flies onto comic bookshelves and bookstores next week. This is a series that spun out of Gerry Duggan’s Infinity War event, giving the main character powers thanks to an Infinite Stone. After suffering a slight delay due to the pandemic, the five-issue series is now available in collected format. For a series introducing a new anti-hero capable of being a full-blown good guy who trades blows with Captain Marvel, this series pulls off the origin story surprisingly well. With the odds against it, it’s well worth picking up.
After you get beyond the obvious Superman/Supergirl homage of this character, this is quite a cool new slant on the hero with impossible power. We learn all about Ripley Ryan by her actions in the past and present as she deals with the guilt and horrors of what she has done. There is a mystery in this book that reveals layers of the character while also showing she’s much more complex than one might expect. Sure, Captain Marvel defeated her before she could kill a city, but now she’s on a new path and that’s exciting. Not every character in a superhero comic has to be so black and white.
Early on, Thompson pulls you in to Ripley’s head as she wanders into the Bar with No Name. Soon we’re commiserating with her along with some good caption placement. The art throughout the book, with Javier Pina and Filipe Andrade sharing duties (and Jay Leister joining with issue #4), helps make you connect with the character, which is saying something given her powers and her awful actions of the past.
The flashbacks help convey the very scary position Star was in when she thought she was dead, which is where the book starts. Yes, she did some evil things, but connecting us to her human side makes her more intriguing. It’s a unique character who will likely offer another write the chance to tell a different kind of heroic story. I’m excited for more thanks to what Thompson has laid out here.
The art by Javier Pina and Filipe Andrade is good, featuring the various powers and characters in distinguishing ways. There’s a translucency effect that works well here in the final issue, for instance, making the heroics look flashy and cool. Props must be given to a key flashback for Star which uses creative lettering to convey the utter hell she went through throughout her life.
It’s not all character study, though. As action comics go, the art team does a wonderful job mixing things up and keeping the fight interesting. Color artists Jesus Arburtov with Chris O’Halloran keep the energy powers looking flashy and the rubble underneath these characters muted and realistic. A page in the fourth issue with the Black Order watching Captain Marvel and Star fight is hands-down the best page in the issue and it’s a great example of subtle differences between panels to amp up humor and character wrinkles. The final two pages especially felt badass as hell, like the scene where Neo enters the phone booth in The Matrix. You may want to play some rock music while she walks towards the reader.
There are elements that are noticeable, like a rush to finish as if more issues were planned but the book got canceled. There are also tropes that make things feel a bit rote, like a team-up that is like every other.
Star: Birth of a Dragon is the kind of book you might not expect to work, but does thanks to the excellent creative team. They’ve pulled off an origin story of sorts for a character who by all accounts could have been added to the pile of mindless evil villains. Not so here, as Star is propelled into something much more rich and rewarding — you just need to give it a chance.
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