3 out of 5
So what makes your “lone hero against the alien invaders” story different from any other? I asked myself this while casually reading Starside’s first three issues, from newbie comic creative team Dylan Klein, Lann Brettschneider, and artist Jordan Chao. It hits the usual beats: an unassuming lead; discovery of hidden powers or an ultimate weapon; a gathering of a motley crew to defeat the enemy… and that ‘casual’ adverb is apt for my experience while going through the books, as I wasn’t hurtling past the pages, scrabbling for the next issue. I enjoyed the story and the naturalistic dialogue, but there’s not some wild story hook or intrigue that demands to know what’s next, and Chao’s art – prettily colored with cool tones and a sort of rougher take on Nick Brokenshire’s stiff, detailed work – creates a good sense of pacing and space but also isn’t the kind of thing you have to pause absorb.
However, there are some interesting subtleties to the way things play out that are interesting, and unique, both in writing and visuals. A more seasoned set of creatives would probably better know how to exploit these elements; that they come through despite the inexperience of the team with the medium is promising.
Without ruining some of the story’s beats – which concerns student Jack’s “one bad day” when his planet is overrun by aliens – Starside spotlights focus on moments that, generally, would be a set up for something relevant, only to divert to something else. While this might sound sloppy, it feels purposeful, and has the effect of making Jack’s experience feel more real and eventful – that he’s a witness, and not necessarily the direct star of the show. Chao’s art captures this as well, avoiding glory shots and keeping a mood of things happening around Jack, as opposed to to him.
The end of the third issue puts us back in a place to question how Starside might differ from other sci-fi adventures, and I’m still not tearing my hair out in anticipation of the next issue… but I am definitely intrigued enough by the title’s nuances to want to read that fourth issue when it happens.