Review by Frank Plowright
The bulk of this Omnibus collection is what’s also found in paperback as A Wicked Inclination…, and very good it is too. As this is a chronological reprinting of the Starman comics, though, there are also stories that were shunted into the two following paperback collections Times Past and Infernal Devices.
Tony Harris contributes most artwork, and he’s become noticeably more ambitious with his layouts, adorning some pages with decorative borders bleeding off the page. These match the art deco style in which he’s designed Starman’s home, Opal City. The posed stiffness that affected his figures in the first volume is gradually loosening, and his style is so definitively imprinted that it disturbs when even competent artists provide fill-ins.
The diversity that characterised the first volume now proves endemic to the series, with James Robinson all over the place with his storytelling, and Starman all the better for it. This isn’t just the further adventures of Jack Knight in the present day, as Robinson considers anyone who’s called themselves Starman in the past to be fair game.
Ted Knight was the first of that ilk, and he features in the present day as a tolerant father prepared to indulge his son’s occasional stupidities in the knowledge that Jack is fundamentally decent. We also see him in his 1940s prime during his first meeting with the Mist, drawn by John Watkiss. Craig Hamilton provides some particularly decorative art on tales of the 1970s alien Starman, and in passing we learn there was a Starman in 1951, a bauble that will be dangled until the end of the series.
We also have exploits of the Shade, first hearing an offer from the demon Neron, this drawn by regular inker Wade Von Grawbadger, in a story that appears relatively trivial, but which will have devastating later consequences. Then there’s a teaming with Doctor Fate, with art by Matt Smith much improved from the first volume. The Shade also features in the future as we look in on a Starman unseen since the 1980s, and his seeming fate. Other heroes from the past featured are the Black Pirate and, obliquely, Scalphunter.
In case this all makes it sound as if Jack is absent in what’s nominally his title, that’s not the case. There’s a nice tale in which he meets Wesley Dodds, the original Sandman, now an old man, yet not too old to help solve a case in the present day. There’s also a nice interlude in the past drawn by Sandman Mystery Theatre artist Guy Davis and teaming Dodds with Ted Knight. This won an Eisner Award when originally published. We also have a touching Christmas story illustrated by Steve Yeowell, Jack meeting his brother and a long story about posters through which people are abducted, and have been for some while. The genres covered encompass horror, whimsy, straight superhero, and science-fiction, but at the heart of each is a warm and well-conceived character-based story. It’s an engrossing read.