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Color me jazzed because I just found a new series of trade paperbacks to waste my hard earned cash on!

Anyone remember Zero Hour, the only DC crossover besides Final Night in the last ten years that didn't completely suck? The events in Zero Hour spawned a slew of new titles, all starting at issue #0, and among the crap-tacular titles that were produced (Fate, Manhunter, and Xenobrood to name a few), only Starman survived. Well, the reason it survived was that it is just such a damn fine book.

James Robinson writes the story of Jack Knight, antique junk dealer by day…antique junk dealer by night. Jack is no superhero and has no desire to be, which has always grated on his father Ted Knight, DC's Starman, now retired.

As Golden Age aficionados will tell you, Starman used to run with the Justice Society of America, and his powers of flight and energy blasts were derived from the "Cosmic Rod" (no, not the cheap 1970's porno by the same name) Ted Knight created. But Ted has given up his mantle for astronomical pursuits, and Jack's older brother David is the new Starman. Well, he is for about two minutes, and is then promptly assassinated.

This kicks off Starman: Sins of the Father, (the first volume collecting issues 0-5) where an old enemy from Starman's past, The Mist, has decided that the Knight family and Starman need no longer inhabit Opal City. Jack must reluctantly step into his role as inheritor of the Cosmic Rod, and bring his brother's killer to justice.

James Robinson writes a superhero who is not only reluctant, but downright obstinate in the act of becoming a hero. Jack Knight could care less about going on patrol and joining the JLA; he just wants to sell old PEZ dispensers and trade in for some art deco napkin holders. Jack isn't even sure why he picks up the rod and goes flying about until he confronts the man who killed his brother, where Jack has flashbacks to his childhood that help him to understand some fundamental facts about family: you may have to love your family, but you don't have to like them.

And if there is a writer out there that does better foreshadowing than Robinson, tell me who and I will make him or her my new God. Robinson inserts seemingly innocuous and pointless scenes that have everything to do with future plot points. In one such scene, we are treated to a woman getting sucked into a poster, and a bald, absurdly mustached man taking said poster. This has absolutely nothing to do with the plotline in Sins but is a semi-major point in Starman: Night and Day, the second volume collecting issues 7-10 and 12-16 (a nine-issue trade, that's only $17.95? DC has gone mad!).

While Sins gave us a great origin story, Night is where Robinson shines. While it begins with brief, two-issue story about Jack finding a freak show who's freaks are imprisoned by a demon, the rest of the volume focuses on Jack's first test as a hero, as The (New) Mist launches a crime wave that leaves a bloodstains all over Opal City, and worse yet, Jack is already in her clutches.

The thing about Starman is that, while it is a book about the superhero, it's also about Opal City itself and the myriad of people that inhabit it and touch Starman's life. Characters like the creepily helpful Shade, an ex-villain who has lived in Opal City long enough to enjoy two U.S. centennials, provide such interesting background to the story, as well more suspicious foreshadowing (Shade keeps making references to "a lawman in the 1900s" and "the Indian," the latter of which is glimpsed in Night). We also get treated to a heavy does of Jack's father Ted, and are introduced to the O'Dare family; a family of cops dating back to before Opal City was Opal City.

And while we're here, let's not forget the art on this book. In one word: freaking awesome (oh wait, that's two…). Tony Harris does the pencils while Wade Von Grawbadger inks them, and the result is fine looking book. Opal City looks alive and vibrant, like a place that should be safe and secure, but still carries that shadow quality that makes you sure that something is hiding, waiting to jump out at you and devour you whole.

Harris' style is clean and moody, which suits this book just fine, and as a bonus, Tony designs the covers for each issue, which are included in the gallery in each collection. The covers are a treasure; beautifully rendered and graphically captivating. They are what could arguably be called some of the best comic book cover art ever done.

The reason there are two books being reviewed here is that, like black-tar-heroin, reading good comics is addictive. If you read Sins, you will automatically be inclined to go back to the comic shop, or to your nearest Borders, and buy Nights.

And then you'll want the third volume…you see? Just like heroin.

Starman has been nominated for multiple Eisner Awards, so it's not just me trying to separate you from your money; it's the entire comic book industry. Go out and buy these books, and enjoy the intellectual high a good comic provides. The upside is that comics are a lot cheaper than large quantities of mind-altering drugs, so you're actually saving money by buying the trade. My, aren't we frugal.

Starman: Sins of the Father

Starman: Night and Day

Robert Sparling

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