Review by Ian Keogh
As his introduction notes, when he began writing Stars and S.T.R.I.P.E. in 1999 Geoff Johns was working for a film production company, a major comic fan who’d never written a comic. By the time he wrote that introduction eight years later he’d revitalised the Flash, and written the Justice Society’s adventures for longer than anyone else. After this 2007 introduction he’d go on to write every major DC character, most very well indeed, and become a company director. It proves that from small apples big trees can grow.
Courtney Whitmore is a bored fourteen year old whose mother is moving in with a new partner, one Pat Dugan in the small town of Blue Valley, which advertises itself on billboards as the former home of Kid Flash. It’s the type of nice small touch that would come to characterise Johns’ writing. Courtney’s life rapidly improves when she discovers that back in the day Pat was a superhero called Stripesy, assisting the Star-Spangled Kid, whose power belt he still has. After pointing out how lame those names are, Courtney modifies the costume for a school party, and when that’s attacked we discover Pat’s been working on an armoured suit, which for the purposes of the title is S.T.R.I.P.E. Cue lighthearted, but fun adventures with largely stupid villains combining superheroics with Courney’s Blue Valley social life. This comes with the caveat that today’s teenage girls may find the depiction of social life aimed at their millennial counterparts as lame as those counterparts found bobby-soxers and beach-hops.
Lee Moder’s design for Pat’s armour has a goofy charm, but his pages are messy. He’s a decent cartoonist, but there’s no focus to the panels, the eyes dragged all over the page attempting to figure out what’s going on. Adding to that sense of confusion is that he too often closes right in on people, and his most distinctive art is where he pulls the viewpoint out a little.
Johns throws in the guest stars, although they’re a little different from the post-millennium counterparts, with Young Justice providing the collection’s highlight due to the mix of characters and a strange transformation. He’s also heavy on the continuity of obscure characters from comics he obviously loved when younger, although explains the past well, so there’s no head-scratching about it.