And so… Dreadstar dies.
Dreadstar #15 (“The Power!”) by Jim Starlin begins with the title on an ink-stained page followed by three pages of black panels that vary in size and contain narration of some consciousness, aware of the darkness and wanting something more. We get brief streaks of light and, on the third page, thin white lines outline a shape, connecting ten panels before a giant yellow/white panel. Hell of a way to begin the follow-up to Dreadstar having his power sword destroyed by the Lord High Papal and seeming poised to die any minute of old age. The voice continues to narrate as we cut to Dreadstar and his friend surrounding him, and it recaps what happened last issue, revealing that the narrator is the sword — or, more properly, the power that the sword housed. It wasn’t destroyed. The sword was merely a vessel and, in this issue, Syzygy and Willow help unlock it to save Vanth’s life.
I can see this issue being one that divides fans after last issue’s shocking storytelling. Last issue, Starlin did something no one thought he would do… and, in this issue, he does it again. But, instead of killing off Vanth Dreadstar, his hero, in a big fight against the book’s villain, he not only keeps Vanth alive, he basically turns him into Superman. The transformation that began a few issues ago with the new outfit that looked more like a superhero costume than anything else is complete here. With Syzygy’s help, Dreadstar is restored to his proper age and, now, the power that was in the sword is now simply inside him. He can fly, he has advanced strength, is virtually invulernable, and has a ‘power punch’ that’s shown through an energy build-up in his fist. Either this is simply another progression for the series or the book taking a wrong turn.
I don’t know where I fall. When I read the series, it didn’t bother me, but, as I work my way through in these posts, lingering over the details a little more, it strikes me as an odd choice. It seems like Dreadstar has been a series of moves to a more simplistic, conventional story from its beginnings as one that showed the possibility for complexity and distinct storytelling from superhero comics. Trying to stop a war between two giant empires, partly through subversion and partly through a robotic saviour. Vanth wasn’t your typical comic book hero with his hooded appearance and sword. The Lord High Papal was a single enemy, not the enemy. The war was Dreadstar’s true enemy. But, in the course of, what, five issues? Six? Starlin has turned it into Super-Dreadstar versus the Lord High Papal in a much more traditional fight. It’s disappointing.
Tomorrow: Dreadstar hits things.