Rising Stars 12
Review by Mike Helba
Well, at least now you'll know I'm not a raving Straczynski fanboy.
I really didn't like Issue 12 of Rising Stars.
Let's start with the art. Over the last few issues, there have been slight changes to the personnel for each issue resulting in a completely new art team this month. Christian Zanier has been completely replaced by Ken Lashley on Issue 12. I think those who were too critical of Zanier owe him an apology now. Lashley's finished pencils are not as good as the work in the previous two issues where Zanier finished pencils begun by Lashley. However, Straczynski does answer one complaint I've voiced about the art in the story itself.
Next, I was bothered by the structure of the story. The title, "A, B, C, and D", apparently refers to the fact that there are four points of view running concurrently in this issue. Each page is divided into four horizontal strips, with each strip illustrating a single point of view. During my first reading, I was constantly distracted by the realization that I would have to go back and reread each section individually. The points of view get confusing when they intersect at times. However, when looking back after reading the entire issue, it is evident that the points of view are consistent throughout, even if this isn't clear on the first reading.
There is just too much to try to juggle in this style of storytelling. Straczynski's similar layout trick in Midnight Nation 1 was also slightly difficult to read, but it worked because the second story was much smaller than and detached from the main story.
My next few comments delve slightly into spoiler territory, so consider yourselves warned.
Critical Maas reveals a new power in this issue. The nature of the Surge allows the Specials to come up with new powers that we aren't previously aware of, so I'm not complaining that she has a new power. My problem is the nature of the power. She can take control of the minds of other Specials. The implication is that many of the criminal Specials working with her are merely innocents under her control.
One installment of Babylon 5 that bothers me is the TV movie "Thirdspace". In this movie, a strange force makes people violent. They begin fighting with each other, and when the force is removed at the end everyone apologizes for their actions that they couldn't control. This is a device that is often overused on Star Trek. It creates a faux tension between the main characters and allows the presence of villains without paying for guest actors. I can accept its use on Babylon 5 only because it is only used once.
So now we have a similar power in Rising Stars. My problem is that it is far more interesting, challenging, dramatic, and - unfortunately - realistic to believe that there are a dozen Specials evil enough to help Critical Maas of their own free will. Now Straczynski could follow this up with the struggle of the rogue Specials for acceptance after Maas' influence is removed, but this seems unlikely since none of their characters have been developed at this point.
In this issue we learn more about the relationship between John Simon and Randy Fisk. Their strong childhood friendship is stressed in Issue 12, but I don't believe it was ever mentioned before. It is clear that there is a strong bond of trust between the two men, but if their "instant" friendship was meant to be meaningful, it should have been mentioned before now.
Finally we come to Joshua Kane.
Um, yeah. Right.
Maybe it's the tone of his soliloquy. Maybe it's the overly dramatic artwork of his revelation. Whatever it is, I'm sure I'm not getting whatever emotion I'm supposed to be feeling. I don't feel sorry for him. I don't feel happy for him. I'm too stupefied to even laugh.
In an effort to find some meaning in Joshua's situation, I must believe that it's a condemnation of his father. The Reverend Kane's dismal parental skills have driven Joshua to have an unhealthy attitude about his "condition". The result is tragic, but in tragedy Joshua achieves more than most people ever do.
Even with Straczynski's ongoing and complex story lines, most of his works are able to draw in new followers. Unfortunately, I think Issue 12 is too confusing to earn any new readers.
Everyone has a least favorite issue, and this is mine. I'm sure it's all uphill from here.
The synopsis provides a detailed summary of Issue 12. It contains spoilers.