Starman: Times Past – James Robinson

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James Robinson’s Starman is a strange series for me. The praise in the forewords, the excellent art and the brilliant stories all make it seem as though Starman should be a really big deal, alongside Sandman or any other quality Vertigo book. My guess is that it simply came out at the wrong time. I don’t know.

I’ve only read one volume and one spinoff from this series, but it’s basically about a junk shop owner who inherits his father’s superhero paraphernalia after his brother dies. Times Past is a collection of self-contained one issue stories, stretching all the way from the times of Oscar Wilde, to the Second World War, to the nineties. They’re meant to shed new light on the events of the main series, but since I don’t know what they are, I can’t say if they do.

Although this was a satisfying read, it really makes me want to see the rest of the series!

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Earth 2: The Gathering – James Robinson

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Thinking about DC universes honestly hurts my head a little.

My understanding is that all their big superheroes started out in the forties and were rebooted in the seventies. Both continuities were published simultaneously. A Flash story happened where we learned that the original superheroes lived on Earth 2, and the newish ones were on Earth 1. Both worlds fused during Crisis on Infinite Earths, but then some other stuff happened and I have no idea what’s going on.

This book reboots Earth 2, so now we’ve got old heroes in a modern setting. What happens is this: Wonderwoman, Batman and Superhero all perish defending their world from an Apokalips invasion. So a new batch of heroes need to get themselves sorted to deal with the next big essential threat. There’s a Flash noticeably styled after Hermes, a gay Green Lantern with nature-based powers, and military experiment versions of The Atom and Hawkgirl.

Earth 2 really didn’t do it for me. Maybe it’s because I’ve seen a similar premise work better in JLA: The Nail, or because the reboot didn’t sit right with me. Read something else.

The Shade – James Robinson

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Now James Robinson’s The Shade is spun off from his Starman, and I only read the first volume of that series. Perhaps it speaks to Robinson’s skills as a writer that I felt perfectly situated reading this book, despite not knowing who this blue alien dude calling himself Starman is, or why The Shade is suddenly a good guy. Robinson delights in teasing lacunae as much as he does exposition, so I figured my obliviousness to the story’s context only serves to make The Shade the undisputed protagonist of his own tale.

The Shade himself is an immortal gentlemen with powers over darkness, which he uses to teleport himself and keep immortal. His immortality is what kickstarts the plot, with an unruly relative seeking a sample of his blood for similar longevity. The Shade has to go all over the world to figure out what’s going on, at one point even encountering an Australian superhero. I found the story’s conclusion unsatisfying – it felt as though this story was a pilot for a longer series.

I’d still recommend it. Robinson writes superheros-as-real-people, similar to Kurt Busiek. That, and the intimations of a world larger than the America of the DC universe, make this a book worth reading.