Starbrand and Nightmask #4
Writer: Greg Weisman
Artists: Domo Stanton with Daniele Di Nicuolo
Color Artists: Jordan Boyd with Rachelle Rosenberg
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Starbrand and Nightmask #4 feels like a comfortable old sweater from high school that still fits you. This is classic kids-in-college as super heroes comic book fare. It feels like Spider-Man from his time at ESU, which is where former Avengers,Kevin (Starbrand) and Adam (Nightmask) have also enrolled. I had a good time reading this book for all of the old-timely stuff that it did, as well as the more space-time continuum far-fetched content that it also spooled.
Starbrand and Nightmask were intricately involved in the final results of Secret Wars, with the Beyonder who killed Starbrand bringing himself close enough to be destroyed when Kevin unleashed the Starbrand power being the tip-over point for the eventual victory of the good guys. Now back on current-time earth, Starbrand is still in perpetual danger of exploding himself, unleashing the Starbrand force on the earth, and rending it into so much dog food. Nightmask helps keep watch over him as they both try and find their way together in a new continuity.
As I opened with, the dialogue and script of this issue feels very warm and familiar. It smells like Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends. Kevin and Adam find themselves involved in potentially earth-destroying events, work their way out of it, and then get back to their dorm in time for the school-year Kickoff Party. They discuss girls, how those relationships might relate to their super-hero lives, Kevin doesn’t listen to Adam’s advice…it’s pitch perfect classic college super-hero writing. On a grander scale, there are events that could lead to great catastrophes impacting our planet. There are entities out there who feel that Earth should not have escaped the fate the Beyonders would have imparted on all of humanity. There are many portentous discussions concerning what should happen to earth now. Many of those involve Nightmask (which is apparently a position and not simply the character’s name….interest piqued), and that lends to this theme of he and Starbrand existing in this world but not truly being a part of it because they know and understand it so much better than mankind. The story does not necessarily yank me out of my seat, but it’s a solid story for these opening chapters. And it’s just nice to see a couple of the younger Avengers making their way out in the real Marvel World.
The artwork is not head over heels above lots of other work out in comics. But I give a tip of the hat to the detail and organization of the story-telling. Because there is a lot of existential, super-ethereal stuff to communicate in this comic. But not once did I feel overwhelmed, or the need to go back and find an obscure panel for some detail I’d missed. There is also a nice bit of shading in the in-dark dorm room scenes in the second half of the story. And letterer Clayton Cowls was given all of the detail needed to make each page special in its conveyance of the spoken and thought word. It seems like Starbrand’s hearing is a mixture of super-hearing and telepathy, as some of the things he hears appear to be someone else’s thoughts. The treatment that Cowles gives to the dialogue makes you transition to focusing on one story element or another in good way.
Starbrand and Nightmask #4 is an enjoyable post-adolescent romp that hurtles through space, time, and college. The pacing and nuanced transitions from one of those locales to the other is handled superbly. The book never felt disrupted or fragmented. And just the right amount of levity is applied at the right time (“Not a word”, “It’s the thought that counts”, “I hope Maria Hill thinks so”). Seeing Sunspot in this book is refreshing, as I have absolutely loved Sunspot and Canonball as Avengers. This is a solid book and feels like it is not a bad idea for interested readers to give this one a shot in their pull-list. It’s a college-buddy super-hero comic, and who does not like one of those?