Monday, December 7, 2015

Starslayer: The Director’s Cut #2 Review and *SPOILERS* — Just For the Hell Of It Mondays

Written By: Mike Grell
Art By: Mike Grell, Rob Prior, Steve Haynie
Cover Price: $2.50
Sale Date: June 1995

*Non-Spoilers and Score At The Bottom*

The work of veteran comics creator Mike Grell is well-known and impressive: for DC Comics he wrote the Legion of Superheroes, Warlord, Batman, and famously wrote and drew the mini-series The Longbow Hunters for Green Arrow. Independently, he did Jon Sable, Freelance and would later pen and draw a James Bond story of his own for Eclipse Comics. Even more recently, he has written Iron Man for Marvel and returned to DC for work, including a return to Warlord some years back. So I had some high hopes going into this Starslayer book, despite it being the second issue and the cover looking like something found in the diaper of the 1990s comic book speculation boom. Was my enthusiasm warranted, or did this turn out to be another disappointment like my many attempts at creating an all-feline NASA? Read on and find out!

Explain It!

From Reggie’s Box of Comics Crap:
About a year ago, my brother-in-law e-mailed me a deal on thirty bucks for seventy-five bucks worth of comics shipped from some store near Washington, D.C. Out of curiosity, I went for the deal, and about six weeks later I got a box containing a handful of comics worth a few bucks apiece, and about eighty other comic books, mostly from independent publishers in the 1990s, that would be rejected from most respectable quarter bins. I’ll be diving into this box from time to time, and share my findings with you, the reader, so that you never ever in your life ever patronize another deal from again.
I hate being a teenager!
So this comic book is written and drawn by Mike Grell, and as such it looks like a comic written and drawn by Mike Grell. If you’ve read The Longbow Hunters, then you know his style and it is used to good effect here. I think his sense of storytelling is impeccable and really evokes an older style that is comforting to me, and doesn’t involve the jagged, splintered panels scattered all over a page today. We begin on the British Isles in 43 AD, where Celtic warrior Torin MacQuinnon is out hunting with his son Brann. On the way back home, they come across a band of Roman warriors, which Torin dispatches all by his fucking self. There’s like six of them and he just rocks their worlds. He tells his son that they could probably claim allegiance to Rome and avoid conflict, but he says it’s better to live as a ruthless sumbitch than die a slave. Or something like that.
By shading his eyes, he magnifies his sight a hundred times
Torin spies Roman ships approaching the shore, so he and Brann hurry home and raise the alarm. Torin tells his wife Gwynyth that they must abscond to the woods and attack the Romans guerilla style, but she says her father, Hadwyn, will never go for it, which is sort of a big deal because he is chieftain. Hadwyn wants to barter with the Romans, and thinks that he can cut a good deal with Emperor Caesar because he’s got a plus-ten Cloak of Haggling. Torin reminds everyone that he’s from some village that tried to make a deal but ended up losing at the big roulette wheel and the entire village was razed. Then there are like five pages of Torin and Hadwyn going back and forth, just talking on and on until it’s decided that Torin and his family will go their way, Hadwyn and the rest of the village will try to appease the Romans. Old Ivor also decides to go with Torin, even though he admits to being useless.
And don't forget to buy Torin MacQuinnon brand sword wax!
Torin and his crew set forth into the woods, and on the way they meet Ambrosius the Druid that lives in the trunk of a tree. He’s elderly and senile, but not too whacked-out that he can’t make a few prophecies about Brann’s great-great-great-great grandson and how things will go with the Romans. Brann tries to steal a sword, but Ambrosius upbraids the young whippersnapper and drives the sword into an iron anvil. Now, this might surprise you but I’m not actually an expert on ancient Briton history, so I looked up Ambrosius. Turns out this was the full name of Merlin from the legends of King Arthur: Merlin Ambrosius. And I suppose this implies that the sword in the anvil will become the legendary sword in the stone, pulled by King Arthur? And perhaps the great-great-great-great grandson of Brann will be said Arthur?? Is that the point of this scene? Because otherwise it seems to come from nowhere and is dismissed almost immediately.
And that's how the myth of Santa Claus was begun
Forging deeper into the woods, Torin turns around to see the Romans have reached his village and are speaking with Hadwyn, who balks at the meager offerings they have made. Unwilling to leave them to their fate, Torin storms back to his village and takes on the whole Roman army, with help from the disgruntled villagers, until he is again standing on a heap of armored corpses looking like he’s got a few strands of hair out of place. Though he fights valiantly, Torin MacQuinnon recognizes that he is outnumbered, and decides to go out with honor, with a warrior’s cry and his weapon outstretched as he leaps upon the spear tips of advancing Roman soldiers, and upon hitting the spears, he vanishes in a puff of green smoke…and reappears in some giant canister aboard a stripper-manned spaceship???

This is exactly how Disney's The Black Hole ended

I have to admit, I didn’t expect that. I was getting into this engaging, if wordy story about one man’s fight against the Roman legion during Christianity’s early years, but on the last page (or two pages, considering it’s a pretty nice double-page spread) the story does a complete twist and I am left wondering if anything I just read was ever resolved in the comics. For a second issue, this reads an awful lot like a first issue—perhaps this is the “director’s cut” of the first issue, which was published by Pacific Comics before they folded. But then why not just make this the first issue at a new publisher? Perhaps there was an issue before this, but I can’t imagine what it might have contained, a testament to Mike Grell’s expert and thorough storytelling form. This comic is not a rollicking fun ride from cover to cover, but it is cool to look at and moves at a nice clip that makes for an enjoyable reading experience. I don’t know if I’ll go looking for any issues of Starslayer in the wild, but if I find a few other issues in my Box of Comics Crap, I won’t mind reading them.

Bits and Pieces:

This was actually a pretty cool comic book. The story was a little drawn out in the middle, but it was paced really well and every page looks great, with a few vertical spread pages that are suitable for framing. What does that even mean, “suitable for framing?” It means “flat,” doesn’t it? I mean, anything is suitable for framing if you feel like framing it. I could frame my loyalty card from Five Guys but it wouldn’t make it something worth framing. Unless there was a loyalty card where you could accrue points indefinitely, and then I could be the highest scoring patron at Five Guys. You could frame it and affix it to my tombstone next to a free bag of peanuts and a ridiculous amount of hand-cut French fries.


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