Review by Frank Plowright
In a series where ambition has scarcely been lacking, Grand Guignol is the most ambitious book. It’s thirteen chapters of teeth grinding intensity pitting Jack Knight against the Shade, someone he considered a friend, and it’s all drawn by the single artist, the admirable Peter Snejbjerg. Along the way we have the history of Opal City, fundamental to Starman, in fragmentary wisps, and the involvement of almost anyone who’s played a significant part, even in a single chapter of the Starman story to this point.
Portions of the beginning were seen in both Starry Knight and Stars My Destination, and more of it is sifted between chapters set in the present day as we switch from Opal City’s devastation to how its protectors were isolated and disappeared. Dignity and nobility are tarnished, and pretty well every villain of consequence seen in the series to date is loosed on what is literally the city’s darkest day. Yes, the Shade is a man of many secrets, yet one he conceals within, a festering hatred, accounts for some of his past behaviour and results in this devastation.
There are so many fine vignettes amid the bigger picture: a rousing speech from Clarence O’Dare, the arrogance of Hamilton Drew, the girlfriends of the Justice Society members in more innocent times, Elongated Man treated as a hero. Best of all is Simon Culp, not exactly seen to this point, but someone who’s been lurking in the background of the series throughout, and in Opal City for far longer. He’s excellently crafted by Robinson, with an equally memorable Dickensian quality about his design by Snejbjerg.
There’s a fantastic chapter towards the end with the vast assembled cast of heroes and villains scattered throughout the city encountering each other in two page segments. Robinson closes each with a cliffhanger leaving you thrilled and disappointed before drawing you into the next passage, which proves equally beguiling. There are, however, plenty of other stunning chapters, each elegantly illustrated by Snejbjerg with a beautiful emotional economy. Why is this man not better known? His Wikipedia page hasn’t been updated since 2010.
Victory is snatched from seemingly inevitable defeat, death seeps from triumph and tragedy breeds a stunning eulogy. Really, what more can anyone realistically want from a superhero graphic novel?
Along with the concluding volume Sons of the Father this comprises Starman Omnibus volume six, currently only available in hardback.