“Why?! Because one crazy old man in the middle of nowhere gives a sob story, and we’re supposed to fight planets because of it? Forget it!”
And, now, things get moving as the idea of the necessity of Vanth Dreadstar is further explored by putting him in a familiar position: overthrow a tyrant for the good of a galaxy. Dreadstar and company have come across Lord Palafox in seclusion, a sad old man who requests that they help him save his galaxy – or kill him. He describes his once-great rule over a galactic empire where he was a benevolent, beloved leader… until his jealous son (tired of living under his father when they had advanced to the point of living centuries) spread lies and mistrust, eventually raising up an insurrection against his father. Eventually, the son prevailed and the Lord Palafox surrendered rather than die and, since then, has lived in exiled where our heroes have found him. The only question now:
Should they help him regain his former position?
Peter David, after six issues of meandering and slow repositioning where, following up on Jim Starlin final nine issues, the purpose and value of Vanth Dreadstar and his ragtag group seemed in question, presents them with a familiar opportunity. It’s even more familiar in the way that David selects a situation that Jim Starlin has used in various ways: the father as ruler of an empire and the son that either chooses to usurp him or is forced into conflict with him by other means. Thanos and Darklon were existing examples, but they would be followed by Stoner and Mongul (at least in Starlin’s Nu52DCU reworking) and probably some others that I have forgotten. It’s not a trope that he’s driven into the ground, but it is familiar… and that David selects it makes for a better contrast to Starlin’s work. Not only is Dreadstar faced with a chance to fight against an evil empire again, it’s also within a framework his creator and former writer favours.
As you would expect, Iron Angel is doubtful that this is the correct course of action. I was actually surprised in my reread that all of the characters seem aware to varying degrees that Lord Palafox could be lying or skewing the truth to show him in a more favourable light. There are certainly hints in his story that he’s making himself and his time as ruler look better than they were. But, the issue is to what degree? David doesn’t just throw into doubt a situation Starlin has dealt with (and usually in much more obvious terms of who is right and who is wrong), but the very concept of quests of this nature. In sci-fi and fantasy, this sort of meeting with a mysterious stranger who tells a story of oppression and injustice to rally a small band of heroes to ‘save’ the world/galaxy/whatever is not uncommon and so rarely is it any more than it appears on the surface. No matter what comes later, even suggesting that this is all a ruse and that Lord Palafox is not an unjustly overthrown leader, but a deposed tyrant living in his rightful exile is laudable.
But, there really is no question of what Dreadstar and company will do. You don’t introduce a character like this for them to dismiss his story and be on their way. Even with others saying that Vanth may want to champion Lord Palafox’s cause solely because he’s desperate for any cause, he still does. Does he genuinely believe Palafox’s story, or is he deluding himself? It’s hard to say. He doesn’t go overboard in his attempts to sway his friend – he does make a good point that they are in search of an adventure and, yet, any adventure they encounter, they seem to shy away from. In a way, it’s hard to tell exactly what the characters want…
But, they take up Palafox’s cause and find themselves committed either way. Are they galactic saviours or deluded pawns?
Tomorrow, we don’t learn an answer to that question.
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