By: Chris Roberson (writer), Khary Randolph (art), Mitch Gerads (colors), Ed Dukeshire (letters) & Bryce Carlson (editor)

The Story: Ben & Tara continue their escape from a whole host of bad-guy aliens as the initial arc of Starborn wraps up.

What’s Good: This is a pretty well executed story.  The themes are all things we’ve seen in fiction before, and (as they say) there are no “new” stories… But that doesn’t mean that creators can’t do a snappy job of giving us a fresh take on something we may have seen.  We wrap up the first story arc with this issue and it leaves us in a pretty compelling place:  Earthling Ben has been plucked from his mundane life where he writes mediocre science fiction as a hobby.  A few issues ago, he was attacked by aliens who seemed ripped from the pages of one of his novels but he was saved by the remnants of some galaxy spanning civilization.  The rescuers claim that Ben is the heir to the throne and that all the aliens trying to kill him are insurgents of some stripe or another.  Clearly, the mission will be to put “the rightful heir back on the throne”.  At his side, he’ll have the sexy/competent bodyguard, Tara, and the gruff/grim General Talon.  Color me intrigued, I’ll read this story going forward.

I’ve really enjoyed Khary Randolph’s art and Mitch Gerads colors in this series so far.  Randolph comes from the Humberto Ramos/Chris Bachalo style of character design that I love so much, and his work is especially strong in this issue.  It looked like he was using a heavier (but still varied) line to ink his work this time and I really liked the way this works with Gerad’s bold colors.  These characters are all expressive and alive and that’s what I want from sequential art.  If I just want a pretty picture, I can look at something in a museum.  If I’m reading a comic book, I want my characters to look vital.

What’s Not So Good: I only have a couple of quibbles at this point…  When the new alien races show up, I don’t love the mechanic of repeatedly flashing into Ben’s mind as he remembers that they are from his novels…  I’m sure there will eventually be some misdirection between Ben’s novels and the “real world,” but for now I think the story would flow better if Tara just explained who these aliens are.  Ben can still remember them, but I’d rather the story stay rooted in the real-time action than get yanked out to stroll through Ben’s memories.

The other minor storytelling bugaboo is the blatant telegraphing that Tara and General Talon may not be the good guys.  That’s clearly an intriguing plot twist that could get dumped on us, but if it turns out that they’re not on the side of righteousness, why telegraph it so early in the series?  Why not just have it be a surprise when General Talon turns out to be a megalomaniac?  The issue is one of perspective….  Most of the story is told from Ben’s point of view, but I think it would be better if it STAYED with Ben and let the reader squirm in their chair as the “good guys” do naughty things.

Conclusion: I’ve said it a few times, but this is so the best of the new Stan Lee titles at Boom!  In fact, I got bored and stopped reading Soldier Zero and The Traveler, but I think Starborn is wedging itself onto my pull list because it is telling a Space Opera-type story that I can’t really get anywhere else.  It’s true that we have Marvel Cosmic, but that is mostly a known universe.  The fun of Space Opera is learning what is possible in a storytelling universe and that can only come with a new series.

Grade: B+

-Dean Stell

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