Shatterstar is surprisingly complex character when you consider he was birthed from the often tumultuous Rob Liefeld era of X-Men comics. This is by no means an act of disrespect to Mr. Liefeld or Fabian Nicieza, who co-created the character, but it’s criminally easy to disregard a lot of sparring mask-sporting, sword-wielding characters who came out of the extreme decade that was the ’90s. These characters were often laughably goofy and rarely rendered with any sort of nuance or deep development when they first appeared (it took some time to properly turn Cable into the bonkers anti-hero we know today). Shatterstar is the perfect example of a character who needed the march of time to come into his own as a something more than just a one-note hero with an extreme aesthetic.
Over the years, the character grew into something of an icon and one of the most popular LGBTQ superheroes in comics. The fact his sexuality was (mostly) handled with compassion and his relationship with his teammate, Rictor, developed in a mature manner certainly helped push the character into the spotlight, and rightfully so. But what makes Shatterstar truly fascinating is the fact that he remains a man out of place in our world. His past is mired in bizarre circumstances and how he processes the dimension he now calls home certainly generates an intrinsic sense of conflict. The man, now known as Ben Gaveedra, is living a life far-flung from any path he could have ever imagined in the first of a five issue miniseries, Shatterstar.
When we catch up with Ben, we find him acting as the landlord for an apartment building housing myriad heroes and villains who have been displaced from their own dimensions, just like him. While the work doesn’t exactly present the same cathartic sense of conquest his time in the arena gave him, Shatterstar seems to be at peace with his station in life… for the most part. He still carries a torch for his former best friend and lover, but finds solace in being a person so many fellow out-of-place people come to for help and refuge. Unfortunately for Shatterstar, once the new normal has been established, the creative team behind the book throws a monkey wrench into the well-oiled machine to upset the status quo, a move which seems to occur in the majority of X-Men adjacent miniseries Marvel Comics has been pumping out over the last year or so.
To avoid an potential spoilers, we’ll refrain from getting into the finer details, but what starts out like an episode of family-friendly sitcom quickly turns into a revenge story about a retired gunslinger strapping on his gun belt one last time to even a score. While the pacing of this issue may not move at a breakneck speed, it’s well crafted and leaves the reader wanting more. Writer Tim Seeley does a great job bringing anyone not familiar with the character of Shatterstar up to speed. He wisely employs flashback pages to show the natural veracity of the interdimensional hero, which stand in stark contrast to the pages following Ben as a humble landlord. The only drawback would be with some of the narration, which often spills too much out on the page, flooding the dialogue and art with unnecessary information that many readers would naturally glean from the narrative.
The art is another bright spot in this first issue. The aforementioned flashback pages are drawn by Gerardo Sandoval (Venom) and have a kinetic energy (even when the characters are just standing around) that hearken back to the sketchy, visceral style of line work that was predominate in the ’90s. The present day material is drawn by Carlos Villa (Lockjaw), who brings a crispness to his pages that make the flashback material truly seem like something from a different dimension. Both artists are doing a bang up job and seeing how they present the same character in wildly different aesthetics while still maintaining a strong narrative flow is absolutely wonderful.
Shatterstar #1 is another great example of a strong team tackling a B-List character and shining a spotlight on them. Other miniseries like Matthew Rosenberg and Marcos Martin’s Multiple Man have done something similar. This book may not create a ton of Shatterstar fans (or maybe it will), but for those of us who remember seeing him bound across splash pages in old X-Force issues, or wonder if that guy in Deadpool 2 who got tossed in helicopter blades, Shatterstar #1 is a great reintroduction to a character, who deserves some love.