Rising Stars #0
Review by Mike Helba
After conquering science fiction television with Babylon 5, creator and writer J. Michael Straczynski turned his attention to the comic book industry. His first creation is called Rising Stars. It is a 24-issue series that follows the lives of 113 superpowered individuals. Straczynski intends to challenge the comic book medium as Alan Moore did with Watchmen.
Rising Stars is published by Top Cow with art by Keu Cha. Before the 24-issue run began, two special issues were released, one labeled #0 and one designated as the Preview.
Issue #0 is the best starting point for Rising Stars. It was included as a bonus, bagged together with Wizard's Fathom and the Top Cow Universe Special magazine. It is a short book with only seven pages of art and five pages of text, plus a four page sketchbook.
The comic section is a brief introduction to the universe of Rising Stars. The Narrator is called Poet, one of the 113 enhanced people or "Specials" that the story focuses on. Through his words, we learn of the cataclysmic event that caused 113 unborn children to develop extraordinary powers. This is the story of how they dealt with their unwelcome powers throughout their lives.
Straczynski begins with a biting joke. He makes it clear from the beginning that superhuman powers are not the blessing we would expect. Most of the Specials would call it a curse. We receive a short glimpse of several of these characters who will be followed in later issues.
The comic section is followed by two text pieces. This is reminiscent of the format used by Alan Moore in Watchmen. The first piece is an excerpt from the Diary of Dr. William Welles. Welles was assigned by the Supreme Court to monitor the Specials during their childhood. He reports on some of his work, and also provides his personal feelings about his position and the families he deals with. The second text piece is an opinion of the Supreme Court in which the appointment of a physician to oversee the children is ordered.
The sketchbook shows some of Keu Cha's development sketches for Ravenshadow, the main villain, Matthew Bright, and Chandra. Keu Cha also provides page layouts for the first four pages of this issue, so readers can compare how the artwork evolved during development.
The Wizard's Special magazine that accompanies issue #0 includes an article about Rising Stars. With the help of quotes from Straczynski, Cha, and the Top Cow management, this article describes the on-page and behind-the-scenes universe of Rising Stars. Brief notes are provided about some of the main characters.
Straczynski has this to say to Babylon 5 fans about Rising Stars: "It's character-based, where actions have consequences. It starts at the beginning. It has a middle and an end. It's about ethical choices that characters have to make."
The synopsis provides a detailed summary of Issue #0. It contains spoilers.