Review by Karl Verhoven
Jim Starlin’s ambitious galaxy spanning saga continues with another six chapter helping of space opera heroics. The opening two-thirds of the book concern Z, the advisor to the Monarchy’s ruler, one of two great factions who’ve been perpetuating galactic war for two hundred years. Z is very similar in outlook and design to Darth Vader, and our titular hero Vanth Dreadstar believes he knows Z’s identity behind the metallic mask. “I did sense a strange mixture of magic and technology about him” confirms Syzygy, adding to Dreadstar’s conviction.
Constructing the background requires presenting a contracted version of The Metamorphosis Odyssey for those who may not have read it, but unfortunately for those who have, Starlin’s otherwise impressive sleight of hand falls a little flat. He’s modified an element of his previous story to deliver it. Ignore that, though, and we have four chapters during which the tension builds, and the narrative value of having an ensemble cast to care about is apparent. The final confrontation, though, is very much action-oriented while lacking the background plot that’s characterised the series to date. It’s a form of catharsis, though, and brings a definitive resolution to a plot running since the opening chapters found in the previous graphic novel.
Starlin’s art slips a little from the high levels set in the opening volume, possibly the effect of producing the original issues to a monthly schedule. His layouts aren’t always as imaginative as within the previous collection. The opening chapter’s recurring floating head in a Ditkoesque virtual world disappoints in conveying what’s an imaginatively written struggle, albeit one that’s now been replayed dozens of times since, and so has a familiarity. Elsewhere Ditko’s style of alien has obviously influenced Starlin.
With Z’s tale concluded, Starlin turns his attention to the Lord High Papal, head of the Instrumentality, one of the two organisations controlling the galaxy. He crafts a positively Dickensian origin tale, encompassing racial prejudice, deprivation, abuse and unreciprocated love resulting in the creation of a monster. Even within this, though, there’s an element of the spiritual, and that’s a characteristic that runs throughout the series. The final chapter is the comedic farce, returning what’s now a more obvious Hulk analogue from the first volume (“Tuetun Annhilate”), as Starlin again broadens the cast and brings his plot full circle in satisfying fashion.
This book and its predecessor are now more easily located within the first Dreadstar Omnibus, which makes more sense as collects an entire plotline over ten chapters rather than splitting it over two books.