Rising Stars 3
Review by Mike Helba
Issue 3 of Rising Stars is different from the very beginning. Instead of the superhero images that adorned previous covers, issue 3's cover is a surreal and artistic mix of painting and photography. It is a version of the artwork that Randy Fisk works on during the story. This cover is not intended to attract children, and the story inside is likewise a mature tale rather than standard superhero fare.
The other big change for issue 3 is that the artwork has been taken over by Christian Zanier. Zanier's artwork is perhaps slightly better than Keu Cha's. His characters look a little more realistic. However, their styles are close enough that there is no discontinuity within the series. Zanier manages to make most of the familiar characters identifiable. The important factor is that Zanier is faster. Top Cow is already recovering from the extensive delays of Cha's tenure.
John Simon begins his investigation of the murders by visiting Randy Fisk. Randy's alter ego is Ravenshadow, a mysterious creature of the night. Randy is quite eccentric. He was the first Special to wear a costume as a child. It seems that he has decided to have as much fun as possible with his powers. Randy is a successful artist and has earned enough money to bankroll his lifestyle and his Shadowcave. Yes, he calls it the Shadowcave, and it takes all of John's abilities not to laugh in Randy's face when he hears the name.
John believes that the current murders can be traced back to the death of Lee Jackson. Lee was the first pyro who fled with his parents after he killed a camp counselor who was abusing him. John has come to Randy to learn what happened to Lee Jackson between the time he fled and the time he died on national television. This is the setup for another narrated flashback that has become the staple of Rising Stars. Lee's story is a tragic one. It follows the standard formula of a sad life followed by a chance at peace which is then unjustly stolen from him. However, there are a few twists along the way.
The payoff comes at the end of Lee's story when Randy reveals the secret that he learned after Lee died. John's suspicions are correct, because this secret is the motive for the murders. It also confirms that there will be more murders.
I am really enjoying Rising Stars, but I fear that the style of telling the bulk of each issue in a narrated flashback will become stale. At the time the murders begin, Matthew Bright, Jason Miller, and Elizabeth Chandra are already established in their careers. Since they seem to be major characters, I assume they will each have flashback issues devoted to them.
Speaking of Jason Miller, this issue reveals that he must give up the name "Flagg" because a guy named Chaykin has the rights to it. Straczynski worked this piece of reality into the fiction after learning that Howard Chaykin has the rights to the name "Flagg". Here's what Straczynski had to say about the issue:
After the PR for Rising Stars got going, Howard Chaykin noticed the Flagg name, and he did (and does) have the rights to Flagg. I'd thought it was only American Flagg! that he had the rights to, and it wouldn't be an issue, but apparently it's otherwise.
It wasn't a big deal, really...I saw Howard one night at dinner (we're not close friends, but we are friendly acquaintances, and I've always been a big fan of his work), and we chatted about it, and I suggested the solution that's in the book, he laughed, thought it was a great and funny idea, and that was the end of it.
The synopsis provides a detailed summary of Issue 3. It contains spoilers.