Mark Millar

A review of a Starlight comic book, a series published by Image Comics.

Starlight 2 (April 2014)

Starlight #2

I was expecting a lot more from Starlight. This new development where series totally fall off after strong openings didn’t seem like something Millar would fall for, but this issue suggests otherwise. Duke argues with a kid from the planet he saved about whether he’s going back to save them again.

Of course he’s going to go back. Otherwise there’s not a series.

About the only time the comic shows any signs of life is when Duke says they’re going to show off the spaceship to all the people who said he was crazy. And then Millar fails to deliver anything.

So it’s a redundant, predictable talking heads book. Without very interesting art. Parlov doesn’t do a lot of backgrounds and his panels are simplistic. There’s an overemphasis on the kid, who’s not particularly interesting, and most of the moodiness about Duke’s solitude is gone.

Starlight’s dimming. It’s too bad too.

C 

CREDITS

Writer, Mark Millar; artist, Goran Parlov; colorist, Ive Svorcina; letterer, Marko Sunjic; editor, Nicole Boose; publisher, Image Comics.

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A review of a Starlight comic book, a series published by Image Comics.

Starlight 1 (March 2014)

Sl1

Starlight is not an original idea. Goran Parlov’s composition even mimics The Incredibles when establishing the protagonist, one Duke McQueen. He’s not a John Wayne character, he’s Flash Gordon or Buck Rogers. Except he’s gotten old. His kids are selfish little pricks–again, not original–but he’s pushing through.

He’s also exceptionally well-established in just one issue. Mark Millar uses flashbacks to his adventuring to show who he was and then little scenes in the present to show how he hasn’t changed too much.

Is Duke going to go and save the galaxy again? One hopes–oh, wait a second, didn’t Garth Ennis do Dan Dare with this treatment. Like I said, not original.

But it’s earnestly done. Parlov’s art is fantastic. The fantastical stuff gets pushed further thanks to Parlov’s realistically minded but not realistic stylings. So obvious the Earth stuff works.

It’s light reading, but wonderfully so.

B 

CREDITS

Writer, Mark Millar; artist, Goran Parlov; colorist, Ive Svorcina; letterer, Marko Sunjic; editor, Nicole Boose; publisher, Image Comics.

Ultimate Spider-Man 86 (January 2006)

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Maybe not everything should get an Ultimate version.

For example, Bendis opens the issue with Ultimate Damage Control. Does there need to be an Ultimate Damage Control… probably not. But Bendis uses it for exposition and to frame his flashback. It’s okay enough.

Except the arc’s not about them, it’s about Ultimate Silver Sable, who’s apparently a corporate espionage person. Does she need an Ultimate version? Hard to say, but definitely not the way Bendis writes this issue.

She has all these morons working for her (the Wild Pack, I think) and Bendis is clearly enjoying writing their dialogue… but it’s all for a useless comic. He’s impressing himself again, which never goes well for the series.

The twist at the end, which should be played for laughs, ends up being vicious. The arc’s a misfire so far.

And the Ultimate Vision backup? Pointless but inoffensive writing; truly hideous art.

CREDITS

Silver Sable, Part One; writer, Brian Michael Bendis; penciller, Mark Bagley; inker, Scott Hanna; colorist, Justin Ponsor. Ultimate Vision, Visions, Part One of Six; writer, Mark Millar; penciller, John Romita Jr.; inker, Jimmy Palmiotti; colorist, Jonathan D. Smith. Letterer, Chris Eliopoulos; editors, John Barber, Nicole Wiley and Ralph Macchio; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Swamp Thing 171 (October 1996)

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Millar hits a home run with the final issue.

He ties up all sorts of things, the little things he’s done throughout his run, the bigger things no one ever could have done without his arc. He rewards the faithful reader, with more than a few nods to memorable events in long ago issues.

The reason it works is because of Millar’s narration. He writes Alec as he changes from powerful elemental to ultimate elemental to whatever comes next. There are little tricks he does–putting some scientific terminology into the narration, letting thoughts pass without ever coming to the fore–but he accomplishes something wonderful.

Hester, DeMulder and colorist Tatjana Wood (who’s been on the book from the start) really come through here too. Millar’s got to write the unimaginable, but they have to illustrate it.

The narrative’s miraculously plotted for the reader, but never feels compromised.

It’s magnificent.

CREDITS

Trial by Fire, The End; writer, Mark Millar; penciller, Phil Hester; inker, Kim DeMulder; colorist, Tatjana Wood; letterer, Richard Starkings; editor, Stuart Moore; publisher, Vertigo.

Swamp Thing 170 (September 1996)

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Poor Chester and Liz, they only get a page together. But Millar does give Chester just about the only joke in the entire issue.

It’s Alec–turned into a human Alec Holland again–versus the Word. The Word is the embodiment of God’s power (they call him the Voice here, probably as not to alienate any readers). But there’s a lot with Woodrue and all the experimenting his plans on doing to Tefè. She’s seven, it turns out, which means Millar did play a whole lot with the internal timeline logic.

Then there’s some stuff with Abby and Constantine, who are always interesting together. Millar does well with their scene, which is rather important because it’s unclear how honest Alec’s being in his scene.

There’s quite a bit about Tefè’s new origin. It’s Millar’s biggest change. He works hard to sell it and… for the most part, achieves that goal.

CREDITS

Trial by Fire, Part Five: Apocalypse Now; writer, Mark Millar; penciller, Phil Hester; inker, Kim DeMulder; colorist, Tatjana Wood; letterer, Richard Starkings; editor, Stuart Moore; publisher, Vertigo.

Swamp Thing 169 (August 1996)

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It’s the big Constantine issue. Oddly, Millar hasn’t really given his own new characters much to do. Instead he relies on the classics to wrap up the comic. It’s appropriate and all, but one might think a writer would be selfish. If Millar’s writing this finale dispassionately, he’s a master faker.

Besides some subterfuge on Constantine’s part, there’s absolutely no action this issue. It’s all talking heads, whether Constantine and Alec or Abby discovering what’s become of Tefé. The Abby scenes with Tefé are better than most of Constantine and Alec’s sequence, though the finish for that one is superior.

Millar has a great cliffhanger for the issue too. The conversation between Alec and Constantine never really references their past relationship (Millar flashes back to a different point in Constantine’s career) but just has the gravity of two people who’ve known each other for a long time.

As expected, excellent.

CREDITS

Trial by Fire, Part Four: The Judas Tree; writer, Mark Millar; penciller, Phil Hester; inker, Kim DeMulder; colorist, Tatjana Wood; letterer, Richard Starkings; editor, Stuart Moore; publisher, Vertigo.

Swamp Thing 168 (July 1996)

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Millar continues killing off Parliaments this issue. Between that subplot, Arcane’s return and Abby preparing for her visit, it’s a full issue. Most talky is obviously Arcane’s return, since he really does only come back to lecture. Millar also reveals the new Arcane ties into something in his first issue–he’s doing a really good job of tying the whole series together, whether stuff from his run or much earlier.

There’s some comedy with Chester, Liz (who I think Martin Pasko created at the start) and Abby. It feels like old Swamp Thing when Millar writes the three of them together, even after all the changes in the characters. All the fantastic stuff he’s writing, the humans ground it.

Alec does get a lot of time this issue. He and Arcane talk back and forth for–with breaks–half the issue. Millar the best Arcane since Moore.

It’s all great.

CREDITS

Trial by Fire, Part Three: The Last Temptation of Anton; writer, Mark Millar; penciller, Phil Hester; inker, Kim DeMulder; colorist, Tatjana Wood; letterer, Richard Starkings; editor, Stuart Moore; publisher, Vertigo.

Swamp Thing 167 (June 1996)

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Lots of returning faces this issue–Millar’s first (and last?) regular appearance of Chester. He and Abby go to a McDonald’s stand-in and discuss the world’s predicament. Millar positions their relative calm against everyone else, who are all expecting the world to end.

Most of the issue follows Timothy Raven. Millar’s setting up this arc like a heist movie. Every character has a role to play, the reader is watching it all play out, Alec is the loot. He’s pretty much off panel the entire issue.

There’s also what must be the last appearance of the Parliament of Trees. They try to stand up to God. It doesn’t go too well. Millar really shows it in Lady Jane, who is–while scary looking in the Hester rendition–very caring and sympathetic.

There’s only one hiccup. Millar’s got some weird timeline gaff. It’s slight but jarring. Otherwise, another excellent issue.

CREDITS

Trial by Fire, Part Two: The Word of God; writer, Mark Millar; penciller, Phil Hester; inker, Kim DeMulder; colorist, Tatjana Wood; letterer, Richard Starkings; editor, Stuart Moore; publisher, Vertigo.

Swamp Thing 166 (May 1996)

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Millar brings in Jason Woodrue, who hasn’t been around for quite a while, and Constantine, who Millar hasn’t written in this series before.

He also jumps ahead a year in the present action. Alec had built himself a Hearst Castle and cut himself off from the world. Woodrue’s journals fill the reader in on the changes while Constantine and Abby–in separate scenes–show how cut off Alec has become. Cut off and quite dangerous.

When Alec finally does appear, Hester has designed him a new look to take the air elemental bit into account. He’s unrecognizable for the most part, except maybe the eyes.

It’s a big issue, dealing with a big question–the end of the world–and Millar does a good job. Even though the issue’s regular length, it feels very full. I haven’t even mentioned the Phantom Stranger has his own subplot this issue.

It’s good.

CREDITS

Trial by Fire, Part One: Golden Days before the End; writer, Mark Millar; penciller, Phil Hester; inker, Kim DeMulder; colorist, Tatjana Wood; letterer, Richard Starkings; editor, Stuart Moore; publisher, Vertigo.

Swamp Thing 165 (April 1996)

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The wonderful Chester Williams issue. I remember it from reading it years ago–though I forgot Curt Swan pencilled it.

It’s a joke issue, with Millar turning Chester into a neo-con cop who’s fed up with all the dirty hippy stuff going on around him. It actually follows the character’s history pretty close–though Chester was always so stoned he really didn’t have a personality–and it ends, as it should, with Chester confronting Swamp Thing.

Swan’s pencils are good, but the kicker is the hippy version of Swamp Thing (who looks a lot like the Scot Eaton Swamp Thing from later issues).

It’s a political issue–Millar did it in time for the 1996 presidential election–and it wouldn’t work without Chester. Having him spout generic Republican catchphrases when people are actually talking to him is a fine gag.

The issue’s memorable and decent, but it’s obviously filler.

CREDITS

Chester Williams: American Cop; writer, Mark Millar; pencillers, Curt Swan and Phil Hester; inker, Kim DeMulder; colorist, Tatjana Wood; letterer, Richard Starkings; editor, Stuart Moore; publisher, Vertigo.

Swamp Thing 164 (March 1996)

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To become the rock elemental and the water elemental, Millar put Alec through a whole bunch of grief. But to become the wind elemental, there’s really not much to it. He has to solve one of the easier riddles I’ve ever read. It’s probably not even a riddle. He just has to find a clue. A very obvious one.

No wonder Millar spent most of these last issues dealing with the fantasy world and just had Alec depressed. If he came up with the solution first, then wrote the issues, there’d be no way to give Alec an interesting journey.

Alec’s depression, of course, is well-written. Millar’s showing his dwindling humanity in his insensitivity–not to everything but to a few choice targets.

But after multiple issues promising these awesome warlocks, Millar never delivers. We don’t even get to see a single warlock.

Still, it’s fine, with excellent art.

CREDITS

The Parliament of Vapors; writer, Mark Millar; penciller, Phil Hester; inker, Kim DeMulder; colorist, Tatjana Wood; letterer, Richard Starkings; editor, Stuart Moore; publisher, Vertigo.

Swamp Thing 163 (February 1996)

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It’s a nice, full issue. Alec meets the son of one of the Cajuns he killed–not his fault, of course, Parliament of Trees banished his human side–and has a very interesting encounter. He bonds with the kid, but also gets to talk to some of his victims.

Millar has almost made the victims a Greek chorus; they’re stuck in trees, apparently immortal, but also part of the Green. They tell Alec a lot he doesn’t want to hear–and it becomes clear Millar isn’t using Alec as a reliable narrator.

But then the last third or so of the comic is this run up to an invasion from another dimension. The three mystical beings who support Swamp Thing magically banished superhero involvement in the saving the world from destruction.

And now Alec doesn’t want to play ball.

Very good stuff, with very evocative art from Hester and DeMulder.

CREDITS

Trees of Knowledge; writer, Mark Millar; penciller, Phil Hester; inker, Kim DeMulder; colorist, Tatjana Wood; letterer, Richard Starkings; editor, Stuart Moore; publisher, Vertigo.

Swamp Thing 162 (January 1996)

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It’s a particularly awesome issue, even if the Abby thing doesn’t work out.

The evil druid from another dimension has Alec trapped while he’s burning down a building with a bunch of hostages in it. Millar doesn’t go easy on characterizing the hostages. He makes sure the reader knows how scared and desperate they are in their situation.

Then there’s a big action sequence and it’s awesome, some great narration for Alec. Then there’s a resolution scene full of magic and wonderment–also awesome (Hester and DeMulder do better on the action than the resolution; they don’t do wonderment very well).

Millar hasn’t done an issue like this one, with Alec confronting a threat and also trying to think of others. It’s the most superhero Swamp Thing has been in a hundred plus issues.

But the Abby resolution is bewildering… until one remembers last issue–Millar skips a necessary refresher.

CREDITS

Telephone Calls from the Dead; writer, Mark Millar; penciller, Phil Hester; inker, Kim DeMulder; colorist, Tatjana Wood; letterer, Richard Starkings; editor, Stuart Moore; publisher, Vertigo.

Swamp Thing 161 (December 1995)

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See, I say Tefé doesn’t get mentioned and Millar all of a sudden mentions here. This issue features the first time Millar has written the regular Abby solo (before he was working with Morrison). She drops by the swamp for old times sake–and because she and her human lover have split up.

Abby’s always been the hardest character for Swamp Thing characters to get–well, maybe just the ones after Veitch–and Millar only does okay. He doesn’t focus on either character this issue, with Alec’s narration disappearing and turning into expositional dialogue.

Most of the issue is spent on the terrified residents of Houma, who go about their lives without knowing some big bad guy is coming after Alec. Millar spends more time on them than Alec and Abby.

It’s not bad at all; in fact, it’s quite comfortable and good, but Millar’s not stretching himself at all.

CREDITS

Many Happy Returns; writer, Mark Millar; penciller, Phil Hester; inker, Kim DeMulder; colorist, Tatjana Wood; letterer, Richard Starkings; editor, Stuart Moore; publisher, Vertigo.