Monday 7 February 2011

Strangers: Starlock – reviewed

Like the previously reviewed Strangers: Homicron, this is a translation from the archives of Editions Lug, and it begins in a very similar way, although Major Nick Thaler's life-changing alien encounter takes place on Mars rather than the moon. His excavation of a half-buried extra-terrestrial artefact awakens the ancient entity within, and their atoms are "fused together". Back on Earth, Nick feels out of sorts: an eclipse then lets a mysterious lunar crystal transform him into Starlock, who looks like Nick, but bigger. He's super-strong and super-tough, can bend humans to his will, controls the oceans, creates cosmic fields, and (perhaps least usefully) can make food rot in seconds.

Major Ted White became little more than one of Homicron's memories, but Nick Thaler is still alive, and often wakes up to find himself in uncomfortable situations. Homicron was a decent sort; Starlock is not terribly nice: "Nick Thaler might care about mankind... but I don't!" When dawn breaks the moon crystal's spell Nick begs a friend: "You've got to kill me while you can, Nate! That damned alien is ready to blow up the planet to build his spaceship!" There are obvious parallels with DC's Eclipso: both feature men transformed at inconvenient times by a crystal on the moon.

The story that follows their initial bonding is an action-packed serial similar to something like Doomlord from the resurrected Eagle or Invasion in 2000AD, and could easily have been drawn from the pages of those magazines. Starlock tears semi-randomly around the world in his efforts to avoid capture and build a spaceship; he steals jets and submarines, throws tanks around like toys, gets ensnared in the web of S.P.I.D.E.R. (the Society for the Pollution, Infestation and Destruction of Energies and Resources), and inadvertently brings the world to the brink of nuclear armageddon. All good fun.

Despite the cover, Starlock doesn't appear in costume until page 222, in the sequel, "The Return of Starlock". In these later pages Starlock becomes a more traditional and slightly less interesting cosmic hero. He gains an origin, but Nick Thaler is retconned to death, and it's a slightly scrappy end to an enjoyable if unremarkable book. It's the original stories that make this volume worth reading. They aren't exceptional, and don't stand comparison with more carefully created BD, but they make for simple, undemanding entertainment.

Strangers: Starlock, by Claude J. Legrand, Luciano Bernasconi, et al, Hexagon Comics, pb, 256pp. Reviewed from print review copy.

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