DREADSTAR IS POWER! THE LORD HIGH PAPAL IS POWER!
Dreadstar #14 (“Resolution”) by Jim Starlin features the long-awaited fight between Vanth Dreadstar and the Lord High Papal. So soon after the Instrumentality’s victory, a direct confrontation between the two is surprising, but not as surprising as the outcome. For something like this, you expect interference or something to interrupt the fight and delay it. Maybe a new threat shows itself or a member of Dreadstar and Company is seriously injured, prompting a retreat of some sort. What you don’t expect is for the Lord High Papal to grab Dreadstar’s sword and shatter it, causing Dreadstar to quickly age without the life-enhancing effects of the sword anymore. Basically, Dreadstar and Company get their asses handed to them by the Lord High Papal and his two underlings, Infra Red and Ultra Violet.
As Dreadstar and the Papal fight, Infra Red and Ultra Violet deal with the rest, focusing on Syzygy. The visuals for the pair are really great. Basically, white energy beings with the details done in a block style coloured their respect colour. Simple and distinct, and easy to tell them apart. It’s oddly simple and effective. The pair, together, are a formidable team and wind up overpowering Syzygy, even destroying his mechanical leg. They also injure Oedi and Willow. But, Dreadstar and Syzygy are the big guns and, with them both taken out, there’s really no hope left.
The Dreadstar/Papal fight is one of brute strength and power. Dreadstar has a sword, while the Papal uses a mystic shield. It’s a nice dynamic with neither man able to gain the upper hand. One of the better sequences has the Lord High Papal try to drop part of a mountain on Dreadstar only for him to destroy it with an energy blast from his sword. The destruction of the sword comes quickly and without warning. After their long, drawn-out fight, it’s the last thing you’d expect since how much fight could the Papal have left in him? How could he have the power to grab ahold of the sword and shatter it? It’s almost unthinkable. To add insult to injury, Starlin follows that up with a pathetic attempt by Dreadstar to use the handle of the sword to stab the Papal with what little sharp edge is there. It’s a desperate attempt that the Papal swats away. From there, the death of Dreadstar begins and the Lord High Papal leaves with his two minions, promising to return the next day to kill them all, wanting to give them one final day of life… because that’s worse than just killing them right then and there.
There’s an odd printing error in this issue: on the page where Syzygy’s mystic bubble is shattered, the page is printed upside down. It’s a little understandable since Starlin has Syzygy and the energy pair all move in three dimensional space, not always appearing upright… so, the page as it’s seen in the comic has Syzygy’s bubble being shattered and THEN shows Infra Red and Ultra Violet trying to destroy it.
Despite Sam de la Rosa doing the inks, Starlin’s art doesn’t show any noticeable rough spots. It’s a visually strong issue with fluid, dynamic action. The fights show a nice progression and there’s a smart moment in the Dreadstar/Lord High Papal fight where both men just look worn out.
This issue once again shows that Starlin wasn’t afraid to completely fuck with the audience and deliver something that would shock them. Like I said, no one expected Dreadstar to win outright here, but who could have expected this sort of loss? Dreadstar an increasingly aging man soon to die, Syzygy overpowered, the rest helpless against the Lord High Papal and his forces… and a promise that they will all die the next day. Holy shit.
Tomorrow: the end?