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Starman: Sins Of The Father
James Robinson
Titan graphic novel £12.99

review by Debbie Moon

The decision to go into the family business is always a tricky one, especially when Dad's a costumed superhero named Starman, responsible for the safety of art deco metropolis Opal City...
   Jack Knight, happy-go-lucky collectibles dealer, is happy to leave the heroics to his brother David - and mock him for it at every opportunity. But when David's turn at the family business is cut short, their father barely escapes assassination, and an old adversary starts tearing the city apart, Jack finds himself unable to resist his destiny. In a genre riddled with guilt and revenge, a reluctant superhero who's happy to let the police tackle the trivial cases, and whose mind tends to wander to his most recent purchases while he battles evil, is a fresh concept. Luckily, Robinson knows his audience well enough to spice up the scepticism and the father and son bonding with plenty of traditional super-heroics, and a family of vengeful villains with interesting powers.
   The in-jokes revolving around Jack's trendy/geeky trade are a little hit and miss, but the cast of intriguing supporting characters add immediate depth. Who could resist a seemingly endless family of redheaded Irish-Americans, all cops, who've sworn loyalty to Starman; or the Shade, immortal, disappearing man of mystery and shifting allegiances? There's even room for the genre to send itself up - why do superhero geniuses invent amazing weapons and anti-gravity belts, and then fail to share their secrets for use as, say, a clean power source for the developing world?
   Tony Harris' fluid, atmospheric pencilling and Wade Von Grawbadger's solid inking serve the story well, capturing the seediness and the gothic flourishes of this half-familiar world. Though the plot sometimes verges on the convenient - the villains are betrayed to the good guys at exactly the right moment (and surely all self-respecting superheroes wear Kevlar?), this collection sets up an intriguing premise, and a likeable, flawed hero with plenty of emotional baggage; one to watch.

Starman: Night And Day
James Robinson
Titan graphic novel £16.99

review by Debbie Moon

Jack Knight, collectibles dealer and thoroughly unwilling inheritor of the mantle of Starman, vigilante superhero, is still grappling with what it means to follow in the footsteps of his father and brother. But as hard as he tries to avoid his destiny, it seems Dad is right - you don't have to seek out the weirdness, it finds you. First, a chance visit to the circus brings him face to face with a mysterious stranger and a deadly ringmaster; then the daughter of an old enemy crops up to take her slow, and traditionally convoluted, revenge...
   Robinson's richly atmospheric narrative really hits its stride in these two stories, which have a strangeness and a sense of real depth that the opening issues only hinted at. Again, the supporting characters are a real strength, but the erratic, information-overloaded Jack is beginning to shape up as a leading man - flawed and unwilling, yet driven by an essential decency that consistently surprises him.
   The second story, Sins Of The Child, experiments boldly with form, replaying one crucial day from the viewpoints of different characters - and, in between sowing the seeds of a future grudge-match, even manages a Tarantino-inspired digression into the relative merits of Sondheim musicals... It's obvious Robinson has big plans for these characters, and his off-kilter, pop-culture saturated world, and it's all but impossible not to be intrigued.
   Harris and Von Grawbadger's slick artwork captures the hyper-real world brilliantly, and keeps the narrative clear and pacy. Firmly rooted in traditional super-heroism, but offering that little bit more for the discerning reader, Starman is a real treat.

Starman: Sins of the Father
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Starman: Night and Day

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