Comic Book Review: Starborn #2

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“Stan Lee’s (fill in comic title here) are words that comic readers have long been unimpressed with. Yes, we must admit it true believers, Stan Lee is fifty years past his prime. When was the last time his name on a cover got you all hot and bothered dear reader? Let’s be honest, Mr. Lee hasn’t written a decent comic since Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko did it for him in the swingin’ 60’s.

So here we are, another line of comics and another shot at the superhero genre by Stan “The Man” Lee.

Sort of.

From what I gather, Stan Lee Meets with Mark Waid (in person or not, I don’t know). Then Mr. Waid passes notes and story structure on to Chris Roberson. He writes the actual script and adds a little bit of story himself. So, as to how much of this beautiful mess we can blame on Stan Lee, I don’t really know.

“Starborn” is the story of a young office worker named Benjamin Warner. He lives a dull life while writing science fiction novels. He creates worlds in which the great and mighty Human Civilization battles The Hive. Spaceships and explosions abound. I was immediately let down when in issue #1 I read about a great civilization orbiting a Red Sun, until I realized that it was part of Benjamin’s fictional world.

Then I was let down again.

Wait for it…

Ben submits his novel to a publisher knowing that it will be picked up. He receives a rejection letter and goes back to work. Bummer. This part really resonated with me. (Hardy-har. It hurts to get rejection letters okay?)

Hold on! As it turns out Ben’s fictional world is real—and The Hive is after him. A childhood girlfriend, Tara Takamoto, shows up in the nick of time. She’s a warrior with a laser gun. She saves him and they start running form The Hive, blah, blah, blah.

That was issue #1. And we’ll get back to that in a second.

~note~ Before I kick into this rant, let me just say, Khary Randolph’s Starborn art is good stuff. A bit cartoony perhaps, but the guy knows what he’s doing. ~endnote~

“Starborn #2″ is action and exposition. In that order. It reads like Chris Claremont on a bad day. We find out that a council of alien races has no knowledge that humans exist and that they are afraid of them. There are allusions that the council fear a new human emperor rising up and we get a dose of space-opera talk with some subtext. Some.

Back on Earth, Benjamin and Tara race in a car and run through sewers to escape The Hive. Ben gets a super cool space suit and he just can’t believe any of it. Then some robots show up. That’s it. I’m not kidding.

Now, I’m an old jaded comic book geek. I feel like I’ve “been here, done that.” However, Starborn might be the perfect jumping on point for someone younger. If your nine-year-old nephew has a birthday coming up, grab these two issues for him. It might be just the thing he needs to love comics for life.

So here’s where we go back to issue #1 and it gets really fucking interesting. Ben mentions an author that he discovered after he had already invented his own space-fantasy world. The author’s works were eerily similar to Ben’s. The author’s name in the “Starborn” story is Kirk Allen. About halfway through my issue #2 boredom, I decided to google Kirk Allen and holy fucking shit! I read the most bizarre and awesome psychological study I’ve come across in years.

In brief, this guy Kirk Allen (a pseudonym) so fully believed that he was an interstellar traveller that he almost convinced his shrink it was true. This Kirk Allen guy was so into an unnamed set of sci-fi novels that he created his own world. The psychologist, Robert Mitchell Lindner, wrote,

“Meanwhile Kirk turned over to me all of his records.

It is impossible to convey more than a bare impression of these. There were, to begin with, about 12,000 pages of typescript comprising the amended “biography” of Kirk Allen. This was divided into some 200 chapters and read like fiction. Appended to these pages were approximately 2,000 more of notes in Kirk’s handwriting, containing corrections necessitated by his more recent “researches,” and a huge bundle of scraps and jottings on envelopes, receipted bills, laundry slips.

There also were a glossary of names and terms that ran to more than 100 pages; 82 full-color maps carefully drawn to scale, 23 of planetary bodies in four projections, 31 of land masses on these planets, 14 labeled “Kirk Allen’s Expedition to —,” the remainder of cities on the various planets; 161 architectural sketches and elevations, all carefully scaled and annotated; 12 genealogical tables; an 18-page description of the galactic system in which Kirk Allen’s home planet was contained, with four astronomical charts, one for each of the seasons, and nine star-maps of the skies from observatories on other planets in the system; a 200-page history of the empire Kirk Allen ruled, with a three-page table of dates and names of battles or outstanding historical events; a series of 44 folders containing from 2 to 20 pages apiece, each dealing with some aspect–social, economic, or scientific–of the planet over which Kirk Allen ruled. Finally, there were 306 drawings of people, animals, plants, insects, weapons, utensils, machines, articles of clothing, vehicles, instruments, and furniture.”

And that’s just the tip of the psychological iceberg in this fascinating story. Kirk was a smart guy. He was a government scientist that helped end World War II. Lindner was confused because his patient’s delusions actually seemed healthy. They helped him cope with a really messed up childhood. (Yeah, you think having sex with your nanny would be awesome until it actually happens.) I won’t ruin it for you, but eventually the doctor himself becomes a bit obsessed with Kirk’s world.

Cool shit huh?

In closing, go ahead and skip “Starborn” and click on these two links to have your mind blown to shit by some guy born in 1918.

~The Jet-Propelled Couch Part I

~The Jet-Propelled Couch Part II

Bonus! This was what I felt like writing when I first started this review:

Starborn is The Matrix meets Superman. The end.