Having the various entries for “Pilot Season” written by the same person is one of two things, in my opinion. It’s either a stroke of brilliance, or a really bad idea. True, I haven’t read (and obviously haven’t reviewed) all of Kirkman’s “Pilot Season” issues, but I have read a couple. After such, I’m leaning towards the stroke of brilliance, but I want to put an asterisk next to that claim.
First, the really bad idea needs to be debunked. The biggest reason that this could be perceived as a really bad idea is that Kirkman is only competing against himself for the right to have a new title given space in Top Cow’s production schedule. Kirkman could, in theory, sandbag this competition and really write the nuts and bolts off of one title and mail the others in; essentially stacking the deck towards the one concept he truly wants to spend more time with.
Or (and this is the brilliant part) he could throw as diverse a range out there, crafting tales that not only feature characters he has created, but characters he would be willing to set free and do so with confidence. This would then put a wider array of characters and concepts in Top Cow’s warehouse should they want to develop any further beyond the one selected as the winner of “Pilot Season.” I’m not saying Top Cow isn’t going to let Kirkman write his own title; I’m simply saying if they can envision another creative team stepping in to guide one of Kirkman’s creations, then the concept might have a better chance. This, therefore, would encourage Kirkman to make all of his “Pilot Season” stories the very best they can be.
“Stellar” isn’t quite the very best Robert Kirkman comic I’ve ever read. It’s not even the best of Kirkman’s “Pilot Season” titles, but the character, setting, and concept are different enough to stand out, making it quite obvious that Kirkman didn’t simply do a “Save As. . .” on one of his previous scripts and change a few key words. Kirkman could have just taken an old discarded idea and pushed it into this script, but he didn’t. This story seems just as thought out as the other “Pilot Season” pieces I’ve read. It’s just thought out in a different direction.
The main character is introduced to us through a log she keeps as she descends upon an alien world, looking for a very specific item. We never get her name, and we never get the exact measure of her powers, but in this issue, she seems to be a combination of the powers employed by Rogue and Captain Atom. Her powers are radioactive in nature, making her unable to truly experience human contact. She’s a tragic character to be sure, but she doesn’t wallow in her own problems, choosing, instead, to help others.
That’s how we meet Andrew, whose parents, David and Audrey, know our protagonist from before this story. Their pasts define their future and, in this case, Stellar (it’s the title of the book this heroine appears in, so it may as well be her name for now) makes a decision and suffers the consequences. In living comic book metaphor fashion, her past then comes back to haunt her.
Chang’s art is well-suited to this story, keenly detailed like John Romita, Jr., but scratchy and unfinished, in a style that is not dissimilar to Cully Hamner’s. It’s a great look for the book, and it adds vitality to the characters. Chang has the chance to really sell the total character here, from quiet moments to nigh-epic struggles, and he consistently delivers in every scenario.
This isn’t the greatest of the “Pilot Season” tales. It wants to be a big screen adventure, but the emotional aspect of the story slows down the adventure and makes this story seem pedestrian, even though the occurrences in this issue are far from pedestrian. I’d like to see another adventure before committing to this character and concept beyond a string of serialize shorter adventures.