Rising Stars 16
Review by Mike Helba
It is the nature of a story like Rising Stars that many characters are going to be mentioned only briefly. Rising Stars begins with 113 Specials, but we only concentrate on a half-dozen main characters. Many of the remaining characters are unnamed or receive only a single comic panel in the early background issues.
Still, some of these teasers are very intriguing. We read a name and a power, and we want to know more. Of all the characters that were briefly mentioned in Rising Stars, who would you like to see developed more?
I would like to see more of Laurel Darkhaven, and I don't think I'm alone.
Laurel Darkhaven appears in Issue 4 when Cathy Jean shows a photo album to a coworker and tells him stories about the Specials. Laurel is a telekinetic, but she can affect only very small objects. She was recruited by various intelligence agencies. Cathy didn't understand why the government was interested in Laurel's power until another Special explained that the carotid artery is a very small object. Laurel is the perfect assassin. She can pinch a carotid artery closed and kill a person without leaving any physical evidence.
That's all we got. We had one brief tease a year and a half ago about the Special who is potentially the scariest of the whole lot. Who is Laurel Darkhaven? What has she been doing all these years? Why does she do it? How can she do it?
In Issue 16 we finally get our answers.
The story over the last few issues features the Specials taking matters into their own hands and changing the world for the better, whether the normal population wants it or not. Each Special operates in a different way, making the best use of his or her own powers, talents, and personality. Laurel's powers have increased due to the Surge that elevated the powers of all Specials. She still can affect only small objects, but now she can control individual molecules, and she can scale her efforts to affect vast numbers of objects. Laurel's personality brings her to the Middle East, where she spent years doing the dirty work for the CIA and other U. S. agencies. She feels that she can apply her powers to make a positive change in the region.
John Simon disagrees. He feels her plan is too extreme. However, he can not stop her with violence. As powerful as John is, he still relies on the blood supply from his carotid artery. He summons Jason Miller to help him in case he must battle Laurel, but deep down he knows that the only way to avert her plan is to change her mind with his words.
Straczynski offers some thoughts on the Middle East in Issue 16. Laurel's reasons for choosing her plan and John's reasons for choosing his both have their roots in the debate about what drives the violence in the Middle East. Is it religion? Is it land? Is it something else? Although Straczynski has his characters agree on one answer, they still admit that it is not the sole answer. It leaves the reader with much to think about.
Both the writing and art are top notch in this issue. The mixture of tragedy and hope draws an emotional response from the reader.
This is the end of Act Two of Rising Stars. There will be a ten-year break in the story between Issue 16 and the next issue. Unfortunately, there will be a four-month break in the publication schedule as well. What will we find when we return to the world of Rising Stars? How will the actions of Laurel Darkhaven and the other Specials change the world? What will the world think of these changes?
Unlike the end of Act One, Straczynski leaves us on a positive note for this break. However, he still drops in a piece of disturbing foreshadowing concerning Jason Miller. What else would we expect from Straczynski? Even positive actions always have their price.
The synopsis provides a detailed summary of Issue 16. It contains spoilers.