Mark Millar and Goran Parlov's "Starlight" delivers its final oversized issue that includes surprisingly little devastating death and a surprisingly high amount of happy ending as Duke McQueen saves a planet and returns home triumphant. This issue, like the rest of the series, is unabashedly fun but unfortunately comes up a bit short when it comes to being memorable.
Parlov's clean, gorgeous, high-energy illustration work and his loose, but efficient, storytelling is as strong as ever in this issue, which demands a huge battle and lots of expression work. Parlov's design has been wonderfully inspired throughout this series, creating an alien world that feels authentic and almost nostalgic (it's impossible not to think -- in a good way -- of classic Flash Gordon) while not getting bogged down in unimportant details. Characters, costumes and architecture all feel smartly earned. The result is a flawless look that's light and bright with an adventurous, fun vibe often lacking in comics. At the same time, Parlov's execution has been effortless and with fantastic consistency, a quality found in only the best artists (and books). Characters are perfectly distinguishable and their expressions ring true at every turn.
Colorist Ive Svorcina is an excellent partner in crime for Parlov, taking Parlov's high-energy adventurous art and giving it just the right color palette. "Starlight" is bright without feeling garish, and the flat colors add to the nostalgic look and feel of the book. There's no highly contoured coloring here, instead it relies more on stunning ink work and spot blacks. Most of the final issue is in glaring sunlight and neither Parlov nor Svorcina are afraid of it, they embrace it and the bold look that comes with it.
At 36 pages (plus two more of Parlov's sketches), there's enough story here to justify the price point, and Millar ties things up nicely, bringing everything around to give readers a satisfying conclusion to the adventure. But it doesn't feel like there were any surprises. A story doesn't always need a twist or a big reveal, but it helps a story stay with readers if it's especially smart, funny or emotionally engaging. Although "Starlight" is good solid comics overall, there was nothing spectacular, especially in this final act, to really make it memorable.
Perhaps this feels like a bit of a let down because the conceit is so good: former hero, now an old man whose glory days as a champion on an alien world are either forgotten (or worse, never believed at all) gets a chance to be a hero again. There's a nice subversion there of the classics, but the story was so straightforward, it's like it leaned on that conceit to prop up the entire series. There were no great reveals overall and while readers engage to a certain degree with Duke, there wasn't enough time to build really emotionally resonant character relationships -- either on the alien world or on Earth. Space Boy comes the closest to working, but he's propped up by some cliches that prevent readers from really feeling the ties between him and Duke. Relying on cliches all around as shorthand isn't a bad method for some of the smaller characters, especially when it's a six-issue series, but it does hurt the story when it comes time to really care about those characters -- and in the end, we don't really.
But all this sounds bad. It's not bad, not at all. "Starlight" is a really fun adventure mini-series, beautifully illustrated by Parlov and Svorcina. It just felt at times that "Starlight" had the potential to level up to something really spectacular and memorable, something highly emotional, and instead it settled for just good fun.