Dreadstar December 2 – Dreadstar #47

“Finally! Someplace I don’t have to worry about banging my head.”

There are three alien races currently allied with Palafox’s son that he considers requirements to any rebellion. In the first of the issues attempting to recruit them, Peter David introduces another subplot that never gets as fully developed as you’d think (actually, he kind of introduced it in the third issue of his run) by establishing a cat-like race known as the Piskayne. They are a docile people and act as slaves. Oedi refuses to act as such and, ultimately, fights one of the alien race’s co-leaders to the death (and, if he wins, he not only lives, but they will join Palafox’s rebellion).

Oedi’s people were first introduced in the Dreadstar graphic novel as a failed experiment by the Instrumentality to create a race of cat warriors. The scientists assumed that by combining humans and felines, they would have human soldiers with cat attributes and gain an advantage in the war against the Monarchy. Instead, they created a peace-loving race of farmers that were eventually wiped out. In a stunning coincidence, here is another race of cat people (the only real difference being that these ones have tails while Oedi’s people did not) and they are similarly peaceful.

As we’ll see in future issues, there is a reason for their peaceful ways that has led them into lives as slaves, basically. That said, it’s never a plot that’s quite fully developed. Oedi kills a racist slavemaster here and, later, inspires an uprising (surprisingly quickly), but that’s about all. It’s a very tossed off bit of business that, here, seems to exist mostly to position ‘Cookie,’ the alien’s Piskayne slave, into Oedi’s possession (he gets her as part of killing the alien). It’s a bit clumsy and ham-fisted.

I’m mostly struck by how David takes a small piece of business from the graphic novel, a peaceful race of catpeople and reuses it in a different way. If there’s one thing that he does well in his run on Dreadstar, it’s taking old pieces from the title (and Starlin’s work in general) and altering them for his own purpose. It’s very much a run steeped in what came before even if a newer reader doesn’t know it. It’s a methodology that’s also rooted heavily in superhero comics with the reusing of villains and plot tropes in altered ways to both retell what came before and tell a new story at the same time. It’s somehow very creative and very safe.

In another way, this is also David looking at Oedi and picking out the most obvious thing about him (he’s a cat person) and finding some story to tell about that. After his race was killed, Starlin never really explored that element of the character, focusing on his abilities as Dreadstar’s right hand man and, then, as a possible replacement for Dreadstar when he ran the group that hunted down war criminals. His identity as a cat person never factored into it. And, without saying so, David not only ties into that, but also plays up that Oedi became a warrior despite being raised as a farmer. He was taught these skills by Dreadstar and fueled by rage. He’s so completely transformed as a person that the Piskayne are like looking into the past almost.

I wish it was a plot that was developed more fully, even within the context of the Palafox story rather than something divorced from it. It factors in much later, but in a very tangential way. It’s something of a missed opportunity in this run.

Tomorrow: ants.

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