Starstruck #1

Written by Elaine Lee
Penciled by Michael Wm Kaluta
Inked by Michael Wm Kaluta and Charles Vess
32 pages, color
Published by IDW

Starstruck has always been one of those semi-mythical comics that you hear a lot about, but probably haven’t read. It’s had several incarnations along the way; a strip in Heavy Metal that was republished in the ’80s as a graphic novel from Marvel’s Epic Comics, which was then followed by a mini-series. It was reprinted by Dark Horse in the early ’90s with the promise of more to come, but that’s when things started stalling out. Two publishers announced plans for various Starstruck material only to go out of business (Tundra Publishing and Marlowe & Co.), and from that point on it’s been curiously absent off of the radar. The idea that Starstruck is back is both exciting as well as a little daunting. After hearing about this project for so many years (and with such a high pedigree of talent), can it live up to its reputation?

Because Starstruck has existed in several different forms, IDW’s 13-issue version is taking the main story and pairing it with "Galactic Girl Guides" stories, a few of which saw print in Dave Stevens’s Rocketeer Magazine but the majority of which are new, as well as huge text pieces explaining the history of the universe and its characters. The end result is that the first issue of Starstruck feels like just the tip of the iceberg, that things are beginning to move forward involving hundreds of androids modeled to look like their creator Medea, and Medea’s plans to send in her replicants to seduce and infiltrate Baron Bajar’s empire. It sounds like a simple enough story, but I found myself almost instantly dropped into the deep end in terms of a pool of knowledge. It’s very clear that all of this makes sense to Elaine Lee, and I suspect that once a few more issues are out that it will be easy to look back and see how it all fits together. For now, though, the enjoyment of the lead story for a new reader might best be found in the smaller details; the dance of retaliation between the twins, for instance, or the way Lee has come up with inventive ways to handle something as simple as communications in the future. I enjoyed reading the main story in Starstruck #1, but I’m not entirely sure I could tell you exactly what happened from start to finish.

On the other hand, the back-up story starring the Galactic Girl Guides is as straightforward and funny as they come. Lee’s script of three young girls trying to waylay a robot so they can join the GGGs is clever and amusing, and I love the idea of reading more about these trio rampaging their way through the universe. They’re certainly smart and conniving kids, and considering that their first GGG merit badge has a big sucker on it (as in there’s one born every minute), well, I foresee a lot of people getting bamboozled by the Galactic Girl Guides in the issues to come. With the main story in Starstruck I found myself curious to see more, but the Galactic Girl Guides had me laughing and wishing I could read another installment right away.

The art in Starstruck is just beautiful, there’s no doubt about that. Michael William Kaluta’s art never disappoints, with its rich textures and vivid detail in every panel. Kaluta’s one of those artists who provides so much that I could spend hours just re-reading the issue and looking at the thought put into things like the backgrounds. Corporate logos carved into stone as a backdrop for a broadcast, for example, the frills on every single purple heart-shaped pillow on a bed, or every single weed and little red flower on the ground of a swamp. And of course, that’s not discounting the actual figure work that Kaluta is capable of. I love how he draws people, with such grace and fluid movement across the page. Charles Vess inks Kaluta’s Galactic Girl Guide pages, and the match between Kaluta and Vess is fantastic; it’s strange because all of Kaluta’s detail is there, but the heft of the lines and the shape of people’s faces now looks slightly more like Vess’s delicate creations. It’s such a smart combination of art I can’t believe I haven’t seen it before, but I’ll happily see more down the road.

Starstruck is a truly strange comic, but I think it was worth the wait. For the main story, it’s definitely one where a slow burn is going to pay off. As those pieces slowly come together, though, the Galactic Girl Guides stories will certainly function well as short-term entertainment value for each issue. This edition of Starstruck was recolored by Lee Moyer and while I don’t know what the originals looked like, Moyer’s painted colors have a deep, lush look to them that matches Kaluta’s art style. Starstruck isn’t quite like anything else out there, but I think that’s part of the attraction. I look forward to seeing more.

3 comments to Starstruck #1

  • Elaine Lee

    Thanks for the review, Greg! It might be helpful to know that Michael and I never planned Starstruck to be cut up into small segments. It was planned as a graphic novel, to be followed by more graphic novels. At the time we started work on the project, there weren’t many comics being produced in the U.S. that were not superhero books. Though Starstruck has an American sensibility, we patterned ourselves on the books coming out in Europe at the time. But this is such a big project that IDW could only take it on by releasing it first as a comic series, then as collections. Once the comic series finishes, the whole Starstruck series will be collected into its own book and the Galactic Girl Guides into theirs – hopefully, with more to come!

  • STARSTRUCK is up there with WATCHMEN, DARK KNIGHT RETURNS, LOVE & ROCKETS, and SANDMAN. I loved all of those revolutionary books in the 80′s, but I love this one more.

    Why? Because it has all their strengths combined, which makes it more layered, devious, epic, and hilarious. And more rewarding to the hip reader who wants to think while laughing their head off. Like THE WIRE or WATCHMEN, you don’t grasp it in a glance. You strap in and thrill to one of the richest journeys you’d ever want to take.

    Riot grrrls, Indie rebels, manga mobs, comix renegades, seize the moment: this is your book!!

    Learn more: http://tymstevens.blogspot.com/2009/09/starstruck-strikes-back.html