Someone on this issue’s cover will die… and many more will be destroyed.
Dreadstar #20 (“The Fallen Hero”) by Jim Starlin is one of those comics where something big happens, but not much actually happens. It’s an odd paradox — how does that work out? Well, the plot of the issue follows up on the last with Dreadstar and Company fighting against an army of robots remotely controlled and replaced any time one falls in an effort to reach Mezlo and use him to discover the traitor in their midst. In the process, Oedi dies. Lots of brawling and the death of a central character… the definition of something big happening in an issue of not much happening.
That’s not to say it’s a bad issue as Starlin drawing page after page of green identical robots swarming and attacking our heroes is pretty great. His art is fluid and dynamic as he tries to find new ways to show the same sort of fight over the course of the issue. How many different ways are there to show Vanth Dreadstar destroying a robot? However many there are, Starlin finds them all. He also finds different ways to present the action, switching up angles and perspective. One shot of Syzygy flying at us is something we haven’t seen in this book before, while he’s unafraid to have characters block parts of shots. One panel has Willow’s legs obscuring Dreadstar for the most part, but that just helps the idea that things are so chaotic and confusing at the time.
The death of Oedi happens when he confronts Mezlo and, in the ensuing fight, Mezlo loses control of his chair (or simply acts like an idiot) and they go crashing through the wall, plummeting to the ocean outside of the building. Mezlo resurfaces and Oedi does not. The tension leading up to that reveal is fantastic as the scanners on Dreadstar and Company’s ship shows one lifeform still alive and they wait for someone to surface… and it’s Mezlo with lightning in the background — and a follow-up panel showing the heroes in extreme contrast, bathed in the lightning’s flash, all looking stunned. After that, they don’t have time to grieve, finding themselves trapped by five Instrumentality Destroyers.
The issue ends with the Lord High Papal being informed of Oedi’s death and snuffing out a candle in a holder of six, saying “Five to go.” It’s a cold way to end the issue and one that Starlin returns to. This begins the countdown until Dreadstar and Company are all captured or dead. Oh, and that happens. Spoiler.
A visually dynamic issue where the emotional gutpunch comes out of nowhere. A very important issue that is followed up on intensely.
Tomorrow: someone else dies. Being in Dreadstar and Company is no longer the safe, secure job it once was.