Monday, May 02, 2011

A whole bunch of thought, on a defunct book: Darkstars.

I like the Darkstars a lot more in theory, than in just about any story I've ever seen them in. Which isn't many, admittedly, but here they are in Trinity #1, this section written by Michael Jan Friedman, pencils by Travis Charest, inks by Ken Branch, Steve George, Peter Gross, Andrew Pepoy, and Mike Sellers. Five inkers for twelve pages?

Short, flippant history lesson: like the Guardians of the Universe and the Zamarons, the Controllers evolved from the ancient civilization of Maltus and are among the earliest intelligent life forms in the universe. Like the Zamarons, eventually the Controllers split off from the Guardians, after a disagreement over their early universal peacekeeping force, the Manhunter robots. While the Guardians would then form their Green Lantern Corps, the Controllers wanted to...wait for it...control the universe, all the better to keep things nice and orderly.

And man, do they suck at it. The Controllers would eventually see the need for their own peacekeepers, like the GLC. So, first they created a bureaucracy, to manage said peacekeepers, primarily so the Controllers wouldn't have to deal with them personally. Next, they created the Darkstars, and I do appreciate the fact that they didn't take the lazy route and give them power rings, like everybody else. Instead, Darkstar marshals (I say 'marshals,' since some had 'deputies,' with less powerful weapons) got an 'exo-mantle' suit that increased strength, gave the ability to fly in space, and came with 'maser' ray blasts.
Here, we see Darkstars in their natural habitat: dead, and/or about to die.
It's a neat looking suit, but I don't know if I buy that it was fed power from the Controllers, like the Guardians do to the Green Lantern power batteries. Namely, because the exo-mantle offers about as much protection as a diving suit made of beef jerky in a shark tank. Even in the best of times, the Darkstars had a mortality rate worse than red shirts and faceless goons combined. Think of it like a western: The Green Lanterns are the heroic Texas Rangers, and the Darkstar would be the incompetent drunken sheriff that gets shot in the first reel. In fact, the last of the Darkstars were killed off in Adam Strange #8.

And while I'm not cramming that trade into the scanner, after reading up on this some I can't see how they even managed to get killed, since the Controllers cut off the Darkstars after they realized they didn't have enough control over them. Eventually--and I think the characters actually first appeared in what would be later chronologically--the Controllers would show up in the 30th century, having decided an intergalactic peacekeeping force was dumb, and that they could do the same job with Sun-Eaters and the Miracle Machine. It would be like the federal government deciding that a standing army, or even a police force, was an unnecessary expense when they have nukes. I love that the Controllers make the Guardians of the Universe seem like great, well-intentioned bosses.

Trinity was intended, apparently, to expand the cosmic side of the DC Universe: the Green Lantern Corp, the Darkstars, and L.E.G.I.O.N. working together. That status quo would last about an issue: this crossover is why Hal Jordan was in space, while the Cyborg Superman and Mongul destroy Coast City in Reign of the Superman, which would of course lead to Emerald Twilight and the fall of the Green Lantern Corps and the Guardians. (For a while.)

And while Travis Charest draws the hell out of them here, the Darkstar uniforms seem just a little too busy: they look like they'd be a pain in the ass to draw all the time, like they could do with just a little simplifying. But...I like the idea of the GLC not being the only law in town. Of friendly competition, intra-agency co-operation, or jurisdictional disputes, depending. There was potential in the Darkstars, and who knows? DC has killed off and brought back all sorts of ideas before...


Dale Bagwell said...

Yeah, the Darkstars were a pretty good idea back then. I do like the visuals of the costumes, even though you're right in the fact that a GL's ring is better protection than the suit. I have issues 5-7 myself, if only because of the awesome Travis Charest art, and the fact that the then GA Hawks were in the story. I'd be interested in the Darkstars concept returning. If Johns likes them and really puts some thought into them, then they could have another decent run, if only in the short-term.

SallyP said...

The Darkstars always felt a bit like wannabe's to me. The costume was too busy, there is something to be said for the sublime simplicity of a Green Lantern costume by comparison. And they did seem fairly incompetent. And officious.

Can you tell that I'm a GL fan?

googum said...

Oh, the Darkstars were a total "me too!" from the Controllers. And they probably had paperwork that would've made Salaak throw up his hands and quit.

But...I wish they had gotten popular enough for DC Direct to give them a shot: male and female bodies, with interchangeable heads? How sweet would that have been?