Dreadstar December 2 – Jim Starlin’s Dreadstar #5 and #6

“Ohhhh dear... you are a pathetic little species, aren’t you.”

In the end, everything is made all right. Vanth Dreadstar, killed by his daughter, is resurrected. Kalla Dreadstar, killed by herself, is resurrected. Willow, in Iron Angel’s body, sees her daughter and lover brought back from the dead by the spirit of Iron Angel, which was inside of Kalla and, together with the Sword of Power, was responsible for the Lord High Papal watching over Kalla. Except not really? We have reached the end and must wonder what the point was.

The plot of this series is relatively nonexistent. The entire point seems to be to take Kalla Dreadstar, a new character, from her life with the Lord High Papal to a reunion with her father and mother, who are separated. Except that initial status quo is entirely a product of the story. There is no reason for them to be apart aside from it being the ‘interesting’ starting place with their coming together driven by coincidence and a lack of clarity regarding what exactly is driving certain characters to do what they’re doing. Are we to take it all as the manipulation, somehow, of Iron Angel? Or is it meant to be a genuine case of these characters coming together, almost at random?

It would be easier to ignore the lack of a clear plot if the characters were more strongly defined. Kalla Dreadstar ends the story very much the angry cipher she began it; except less angry. Every character remains as much a mystery as before, except in better circumstances, aside from the Lord High Papal. He is worse off having lost his surrogate daughter with everyone writing off his affection as solely motivated by Angel and the Sword. The final image is of his face with a tear falling down his cheek.

In a fan-service sort of way, this series works. It introduces a surprising, intriguing set-up and, over the course of the story, reveals how it came to be, and rectifies all that is wrong. There isn’t much else to it, which is unfortunate. It becomes the summation of the Peter David tenure on the title, one that seemed only briefly able to escape from Starlin’s shadow and influence. The Junior saga was interesting and featured some of the high points, while, once it ended, the book found itself repeating itself. Even this series was a repetition of sorts with broad ideas brought back like killing the head of a government, a child revealed to be something more than itself from a higher power, characters resurrected... Any story would contain repetitions like this, obviously, but there is a sense that this series became mired in a specific sort of idea about itself and what ‘Dreadstar’ means. It means rebellion against corrupt leaders; it means no one dies, really; it means an ever-expanding scope of power that acts as a deus ex machina... Except, was it ever just about those things?

Looking back on the David run, it seems like what sets it apart is the desire to make the book simpler and, almost, more formulaic. While Starlin would take similar ideas and reuse them in new ways, there was also a sense that it was building towards something different throughout. The circle was ever-widening and that final run of nine issues showed just how far abroad he could push things, with the ending being the only misstep, of sorts, and that was just as an excuse to keep the book going. I wonder what it would have been like had it ended then...

I don’t know why exactly this was the end of Dreadstar beyond Starlin not doing anymore yet. He is apparently working on another story while also working on the television adaptation. I’m curious how much fealty he’ll show towards what David wrote. It will be interesting to see.

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