In the last issue of Starfire, Koriand’r, Atlee and Sherriff Stella took a trip deep into the Earth’s crust to Strata, where Atlee is originally from. It was a fun issue with some good dialogue between them during the trip, some amusing moments with other members of the supporting cast and an intense cliffhanger where not only did Starfire fall unconscious from something beneath the surface, but Atlee’s city fell under attack. It really excited me for this issue.
For the most part I’ve been really enjoying this series written by Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti, but my feelings on this issue are mixed. On the one hand, the action is pretty good, and the story behind the attack is actually quite dramatic. Toward the end of the action scene, Starfire’s usual empathetic nature is pushed to the very limit and she unleashes herself in an awesomely brutal way. The ceremony at the end of the issue to mourn their losses is a rather beautiful scene in both how Atlee describes how Strata’s souls are moving on, and Stella’s reaction to the whole thing. That said, this issue has problems I just can’t ignore.
First of all, Strata is mostly a pacifist-based culture, with only the protectors involving themselves in a fight. That protector happens to be Atlee, who for months, has been living on the surface. So does that mean her home is defenseless when she’s gone? That’s kind of dumb. Also, while I’m fine with Starfire falling unconscious because her body is adapting to the unique energy from Strata’s environment, is it necessary for her to fall unconscious twice in the same issue? And because she’s knocked out twice, she lies naked on a medical bed twice with her naughty bits only covered by medical equipment. I get that her character is loose with her sexuality and for the most part it’s played off in amusing ways, but this is the first time in this series where it feels a bit exploitive to me.
Also this comic brings up a false sense of worry when the doctor says that she might be in a coma-like state for 30 or so years the second time she’s unconscious, when not only does she wake up before the end of the ceremony, but we know there are only 2 issues left and she will wake up before that. The fight scene also feels like it ends a bit too quickly. Stella is given exactly one panel of actual fighting, yet she’s honoured at the ceremony. It would have been better to see more of her fight scene. Instead, there’s a quick scene back in Key West about a couple of other supporting characters that feels ultimately pointless. It tries to be kind of cute and entertaining, but it’s just kind of weird. Even with these complaints I still enjoyed this issue, but I would have enjoyed it a lot more if at least some of these problems were fixed.
The art by Elsa Charretier is decent. It kind of feels like an animated superhero cartoon from the 80’s or 90’s with the smooth, stylized faces. Some people might not like this style, but I think it’s fine. Facial expressions are fairly basic, but they convey emotions well enough. There’s a lot of background detail in some panels, especially in the big fight scene. The fight scene also flows well, with several panels stretching out to see the protagonist, whether it’s Stella or Starfire, moving around and attacking multiple enemies in a short time. The colouring by Hi-Fi is great – everything is bright, colourful and appealing to the eye.
In a series that’s generally a lot of fun, this issue is ok. Parts of it are still fun like the rest of the series, but all the plot holes and the pointless scene on the surface really hold this issue back. I would rather have an overall fun story with problems than a serious story with problems though. I would still recommend this series as a whole to people looking for a comic that’s just fun, but this really isn’t the best issue to start with.