"Four to go."
Dreadstar #21 ("Blow Out") by Jim Starlin has another member of the crew die (or at least be in a state that's the same as death as far as anyone knows). Last issue, Dreadstar and Company were preparing to leave the planet where they tried to capture Mezlo and, instead, got their asses handed to them by an army of robots and Oedi died in a fight with Mezlo that had them both basically fall off a cliff into the ocean. Just as they were getting ready to leave the planet, they were penned in by five Instrumentality Destroyers. Outnumbered and outgunned, Dreadstar calls in some of the remaining Monarchy forces that haven't been captured to create a hole and, then, using the tele-drive, they get the hell out of there... only Monalo can follow them, using his telepathic abilities to read their coordinates before they jump. And the constant jumps as they tried to outrace Monalo's ship push the tele-drive beyond its limits, which is a problem because the drive is powered by energy that no one really understands, so it blowing could mean big trouble.
So, of course, it blows out.
We get a weird 'explosion' that doesn't look like anything else. A mess of red and blues shapes and a bright yellow explosion of sorts. But, it leaves everyone in the ship in the weird, stretched-out, warped condition that we see on the cover. Starlin goes all out in the art, delivered weirdly skewed panels that suggest that we're looking at them from constantly shifting angles. That, mixed with the warped versions of Dr. Delphi and Syzygy that we see, creates a little bit of a disorienting effect. We only see those two as they travel to the engine room to seal the rupture and, in their journey, they pass through various different skewed realities, becoming progressively more normal as they near the engine. There, Syzygy collapses from the strain of getting the two of them there since his magic allowed them to do it, so Delphi seals the rift. The problem is that he was exposed to a concentrated dose of the radiation and it affects his molecular structure, causing him to fade away completely, disappearing... with his parting words telling Willow that he loves her.
That doesn't end their problems as, coming out of the emergency, the ship crashes into a planet and Monalo watches it all happen, aware that someone has died, giving us that final page of the Lord High Papal snuffing out another candle and saying "Four to go."
After Oedi's death last issue, another death is probably the last thing you'd expect and Starlin, wisely, sacrifices the least established and valuable character. Dr. Delphi barely did anything up until now, acting as nothing more than someone for Willow to be close with. I usually barely remember that he was in the book. I love the few pages we get of the reality-altering effects of the blown tele-drive. Starlin just having some fun and showing off his chops.
From here, you'd think things can't get worse... and you'd be wrong. After some brief hints of victory, Starlin is in full-on 'fuck these characters up big time' mode. Though, the loss of Delphi isn't a big one. It's more one that feeds the story and the idea that things will continue to get worse.
Tomorrow: preparing for the worst.