“Come on! Get up! You can’t fool me, pretending to be dead. Take another shot! Come on! [...] I’ve killed trillions. Strategy and killing. And farming. I can handle that.”
Emperor Palafox has declared Dreadstar an enemy of the state and that he is to be executed. He says that rest of the crew can live... if they kill Dreadstar. Junior throws his lot in with Palafox (who declares that, while he has lost a son, he has now gained a new one), and the entire team goes on the run to escape, joined now by Izak. And, under fire, Dreadstar snaps and begins killing everyone he can, declaring the above quote.
After several issues of building to this starting revelation of self-awareness during a mental break, Peter David somewhat subverts by having it happen this way. There is, of course, a large element of truth to what he says. Those are the only things Vanth Dreadstar has ever been good at. He excels at all three and, as he demonstrated during his involvement with Palafox, skills related to those three that exist outside their purview are not a strong point. Yet, it becomes less a criticism of the character’s limitations and more a moment where you want to go “No, man, you... you’re good at other stuff, too.” It’s a clever trick, setting a character up to be so obviously flawed and, then, use those flaws to inspire sympathy.
Unless you’re Iron Angel and, then, you just say “I told you so!” and do your best to leave everyone behind until you’re roped back in. Her role as voice of the reader continues to strong effect here and it’s refreshing to see a character that disagreed with the direction her team decided to go in actually stand by her initial doubts and, then, try to simply leave. It seems cowardly and disloyal, but... she’s not wrong. She did say that they should leave Palafox on that planet where they found him and she’s usually been the voice of reason (albeit one that shouts a lot). At what point does her loyalty have a reasonable expiration date? How deep in the shit must they get her before she’s justified in telling them they’re on their own and walking away? If any moment seems both right and wrong, it’s this one.
An odd moment of loyalty is Debardinis refusing to help Dreadstar, because he’s sworn to the serve the emperor. It’s unsurprising given the state of this galaxy before the rebellion. Dreadstar is so wrapped up in his own methodology and ideals where an unjust ruler is opposed and overthrown no matter what that he’s failed to see that most people simply follow the person in charge no matter how heinous their actions. They may be sorry, like Debardinis, but they won’t do anything.
And, then, there’s Junior. His defection to the side of Palafox is probably the weakest part if this issue. That he would turn on Dreadstar and company after Iron Angel rejects him is not surprising (actually, it is a little, since we assume he has emotional ties to others, like his ‘father’ Skeevo), that he would just march over to Palafox who would declare him his new son is a bit out of left field. It’s almost like Junior sides with Palafox and the emperor, recognising an opportunity, makes up some stuff and presents it as the plan all along. Yet, even that is somewhat laughable. It works on the larger scale of the story being told, but, in the moment in this issue, it’s a questionable move.
Tomorrow: Dreadstar gets worse.