Kurt Belcher, writer and an artist from Earthbound Comics, was gracious enough to send me the first two issues of their new “The Stars” comics for review. I will do my best to keep spoilers to the minimum, but as with any review I have to warn that there are a few ahead.
Let’s begin with issue #1. There are two covers for this comic. The first is very colorful and eyecatching, but for me, I prefer the second cover. It just appeals to my darker tastes. Those statements alone convey where this comic goes in tones of color and art form. The vibrant colors within the pages are done tastefully. The story begins telling a flashback origin of sorts of their main character, John Century. The flashback is done with old western monochrome tones to show that a flashback is what it is. This is brilliant in my mind. I was drawn in to this John Century immediately. The down side is that when I expected more of his story, I was left hanging on.
As a writer, I understand the need to do this because it is often used to bring people back for more, but as a first time reader of Earthbound lore, I desired a little more. From there, we are introduced to a colorful team of heroes who are thrown into action against a Middle Eastern terrorist organization. At first I wondered if the characters were just wearing superhero like costumes or if they really had abilities. I was more than happy to find out the latter was the case. It makes the costumes work hand in hand. By the way… the character designs are for the most part outstanding. There are a few of them that might stir a bit of “cheap knock off” thoughts in your head, but the writers made sure that the personalities and abilities of those FEW characters distanced themselves enough from better known characters from other companies.
The story then briefly introduces another team who we are left to assume are heroes as well with a different agenda, but that may not be the case, and I am eager to find out what their deal truly is. From there, we travel to Japan, where a third team is taking down a giant breakdancing robot. Sound silly? Even the characters think so, as one of them points it out. When it is revealed who the person controlling the robot really is, then it all makes sense. This child who has claimed he is a supervillain gives more originality to the plot.
At the end of the issue, we see a small group of villains attack a hero called “Panzermannen,” in Germany. I won’t say why they did it, but their reason is evil enough. The hero is literally torn limb from limb, and inside his armor is a limbless body left to die in an alley. Being as we never see him perish, I am holding hopes that we get an explanation in a future issue. Panzermannen seems like a hero with a jock’s mentality, and though that douchiness may be conveyed, his heart is true, from what I can gather. We are then shown John Century entering a strip club to attempt another recruit for his “Stars” team.
Bring in issue #2. The cover on this one gives no hints as to what the story inside will be. Is this a good thing? Yes and No. Yes because it is eye catching enough for me to be curious about it. No because it may not draw in enough readers with the lack of telling designs. The artwork is very good however.
This volume does a better job of conveying a fluid plot. The prior issue had jumped around a bit, but that is to be expected in an origin edition. Here we pick up where the end of the previous issue left off, but are also introduced to “The Three.” These would be earth conquering villains are shown with an origin story that dates back to the 1970s in Russia. Again, the artists used colors to convey the flashback. As they discuss their plans, it skips around with brief introductions, and in the background it shows that The Stars are being watched.
What is great here is that in the next few pages is content that the reader can relate. The Stars have disagreement and conflict within their ranks. They have love and relationships. They have family. They are doubtful of their own abilities, but in the end they will do what it takes to be true heroes. The President of the United States is also featured within the pages, and even though they never claim that it is Barack Obama, the art is a dead on likeness. Now here is something that is extremely intelligent of the writers. You might think that a political side might be taken here, but in fact, it is shown that the characters are quite neutral, and that the only reason the President is there is because the heroes work for his country, and he is necessary in such a situation. Also it is revealed that one of the characters is homosexual. This shows that the writers are not biased to any particular group, and they can use ALL people equally in their material.
Once the proverbial “$#!+ hits the fan,” all hell breaks loose. Suddenly the earth is under attack, as well as The Stars live in satellite in space. My question is where did the funding for this massive and star shaped satellite come from, and how does it stay in orbit at that size? Another question is what the heroes use to deflect the villainous UFO attack led by The three. They refer to something called Red Mercury, and one of the heroes looks to be dying from her saving efforts. The impact of the attack is shown in a few frames from different places in the world, so that the reader can once again relate to the aftermath of the events. In no way is the story over, but the issue ends here, making me want more.
All in all, my most critical point would be that I really do not like the pages where the frames are turned sideways. I thought this was the case throughout the actual whole issue, but apparently it is an Adobe issue. The digital reader views the pages this way, but I have been reassured that the print versions are not shown like this. I read them in a digital file and was forced to turn my head sideways 90 degrees. It got old fast, but I didn’t want to miss what was there. Because of this, I recommend it in print over digital.
The Stars is intruiging, action packed, thoughtful, and mysterious all in one. Earthbound Comics even offers information at the end of their issues on free digital downloads of some of their other works. I recommend checking them out at www.earthboundcomics.com . I personally will continue to keep an eye on their releases, and who knows… maybe one day their will be a crossover event between Earthbound and sCrypt. Here’s to hoping.