5 out of 5
Starside spreads out and starts to define itself, in writing and art.
The first three issues of Starside had an undercurrent of promise to the main, somewhat trope-burdened wave of space travel hijinx, in a rush to establish young Jack as a youthy everyman before his planet is overrun by aliens, superpowers are discovered, and he finds himself stranded on another planet, unsure of next steps. That promise was a grounded vibe that persisted, suggesting that, once things settled down, writers Dylan Klein and Lane Brettschneider and artist Jordan Chao could be spinning a more impactful story.
Issue 4 is exactly that – Jack and his associate, Riggs (definitely not a friend yet) are still at a bartering stage: Jack can get Riggs to a crashed ship that he can salvage; Riggs can connect Jack with the means to possibly get back home to Earth, even though the planet’s overrunning by the Salvans certainly doesn’t bode well. The little character touches and moments that enhanced the first three issues are de facto here, and artist Chao has more time to actually establish a look and feel to things, instead of needing to come up with page-shattering action and new alien bits and bobs every few panels. Yes, surely Jack and Riggs are going to bond – events in the issue bring them together, back off into space, once they’re about to part ways – but we’re not rushing through cliche to get there; the dialogue they share and the things edging them toward that bond are well handled.
Everyone on the creative team is operating in a way that feels more comfortable here, in a good way: the book feels lived in, from the lettering and colors and writing to Chao’s paneling, pacing and framing, and now when we conclude on taking off into space, I’m eager to see where the book takes us.