It’s a rematch from issue 24: Willow vs. Monalo, Round Two!
Dreadstar #29 (“Mindwar”) by Jim Starlin is an issue of Monalo getting killed. And good thing, too, because fuck that guy. I hate him. The fight between the two uses some of the previous bits, like Monalo trying to throw Willow off-balance with her father’s image/memory, but that happens much earlier into the conflict. Like the second confrontation between Syzygy and Ultra Violet and Infra Red, this one definitely takes what happened the first time and either updates it or builds upon it. The same tricks don’t work the second time around, especially since, like Syzygy, Willow is much better prepared. She’s much more aggressive and uses some of the same tactics against Monalo that he tries to use against her. When he shows her Oedi dead, she transforms Oedi into the Lord High Papal and has him attack Monalo, for example. Monalo isn’t able to dominate like the first time.
At the same time, Oedi fights against the Mass, but that’s one of the weaker parts of the issue. It isn’t even resolved on-panel, Oedi revealing how he won in conversation with Willow after Monalo’s defeat. Monalo falls thanks to some help from Gecko Lingus, partly because he’s bitter over only getting paid half his fee and partly because it guarantees that he won’t be treated like a war criminal — on the other hand, he’s a hero now. I’m not sure that works entirely, because there wasn’t anything stopping Willow and Oedi from taking him out. They don’t, but I would have found that amusing with Starlin somehow upping the cynicism in the book.
Visually, Starlin creates some interesting scenes, but, surprisingly, doesn’t quite match up to Jim Sherman’s work in issue 24. Part of the problem is the colouring, which isn’t as disturbing with its strange combination of bright tones. Part of the problem is that Starlin doesn’t have many new tricks. Everything we see here is something we’ve seen before. On some pages, characters look underdevelop or odd. Gecko Lingus never looks right. Monalo often looks like a grotesque parody of himself even when he’s not meant to — too skinny, too warped. The only page that really impresses me is one where Monalo tries to defeat Willow by merging their minds and subsuming her. We’re shown a splash with a background of an alternating checkerboard pattern of Willow and Monalo’s heads, a large half-Willow/half-Monalo figures, an exploding figure that shoots off parts of each one’s bodies, and, finally, a hint of a giant face that’s half of each. Otherwise, it’s almost dull sometimes.
I do like how Starlin returns to earlier fights and tries to show how the characters have learned from their previous encounters. We’ve seen Syzygy does it, now Willow, and the issue ends with the teaser for the next issue where we get the Dreadstar/Lord High Papal rematch, but with Dreadstar backed up by Syzygy and Ultra Violet.
Tomorrow: the Lord High Papal dies.