Dreadstar vs. the Lord High Papal… one of them dies.
Dreadstar #30 (“Victory and the High Price of Victory”) by Jim Starlin begins with Oedi, Willow, Omni, and Ultra Violent in a darkened hospital room, someone in the bed dying of his injuries sustained in the fight against the Lord High Papal who we’re told is dead. From there, Ultra Violet recounts what happened when she, Dreadstar, and Syzygy took on the Lord High Papal. The fight is brutal and takes up the entire issue. In some ways, it’s not as satisfying as it could have been, spending a lot of time showing the Lord High Papal against the three of them. While it does eventually come down to just him and Dreadstar, the involvement of Ultra Violet and Syzygy make the victory a little less impressive. If the three of them can’t beat the Lord High Papal, what was the point? It needed to be Dreadstar to defeat him — and it is — and I would have preferred it to be just him. The ganging up diminishes the victory in a sense. Dreadstar could only beat the Lord High Papal in the end because he was so weakened after fighting off three very powerful opponents.
Not that Syzygy and Ultra Violet do a whole lot. When it comes down to Dreadstar, the fight is even more brutal and nasty — it becomes a brawl. No energy blasts or magic spells, just two guys trying to kill one another with their bare hands. That’s kind of what I wanted this whole issue to be. An expansion on their previous fight, which was one-on-one. This one is different because Dreadstar doesn’t have the sword. It’s more personal and the stakes are larger because the Lord High Papal’s back is against the wall. For me, the involvement of Syzygy and Ultra Violet taints that. Some could argue that it makes the Lord High Papal seem even more powerful and impressive, but it seems more like he’s taken down easier. He’s weakened and beat down by the three-on-one gang. He doesn’t seem more powerful, he’s put in a position where victory is impossible. He already beat Dreadstar one-on-one, so it would have to be on those terms for it to be a satisfying victory, one that feels earned.
Starlin tries his best when it comes down to the two of them. Dreadstar running the Lord High Papal through with a big chunk of a broken weapon is great. This is a fight where both men are just beaten down and ready to do whatever it takes to win. The final run at one another and the subsequent explosion that kills the Lord High Papal and leaves Dreadstar badly burned and in a coma is the perfect ending. Both men stripped to their rage and standing in opposition of one another. It’s their conflict at its most pure and it should have been like that for the entire issue.
The dynamics of Dreadstar and the Lord High Papal fighting in closer quarters is different from what we’ve seen before. It’s visually impressive in a different way. After last issue’s mindwar between Willow and Monalo, the image of fists pounding someone’s face is almost shocking. Energy blasts and displays of magic look a little silly, not quite fitting the magnitude of the conflict.
Odds are, I’m alone in thinking the involvement of others taint this conflict, but that’s how I view this issue. Only half of it impresses me and even that half doesn’t hit as hard because Dreadstar had help. There’s a high price to his victory, but he doesn’t pay it alone nor does he earn it alone when that was what was required.
Tomorrow: the epilogue and my summation of the series.