Rising Stars Preview / Prelude
Review by Mike Helba
The Preview issue of Rising Stars was sold as separate issue for the exorbitant price of $5.00 U.S. It is 16 pages long, and the artwork is pencil with no inking or color. This is an opportunity to view Keu Cha's unfinished artwork.
This story is set at a time when the Specials are adults. Dr. Welles is enjoying a pleasant date with Corinne when he is interrupted by Jerry Montrose, who is known as Pyre. Jerry is a pyro, able to produce and control fire with his body.
Corinne provides the world's view of Jerry: She is afraid of him. With his power he is able to shoot fire at a falling glass to destroy it before it reaches the floor. Jerry is a wanted criminal, and Corinne can not understand why Welles welcomes him into his house. After she leaves, we learn that Jerry can turn off his flaming appearance, but has not done so for years.
Jerry and Welles delve into Jerry's history. As a pyro, Jerry felt that he had little use in the world. After becoming an adult, Jerry did a few things wrong, and was supposedly framed for even more wrongdoing. His lot in life has made him very bitter. As a criminal, he became the nemesis of Jason Miller, a costumed superhero who goes by the name Flagg.
Dr. Welles offers Jerry the philosophy that he has shaped his power as much as the power has shaped him. This idea is at the heart of Rising Stars. Jerry may be bitter, he may be afraid to do what is right, but he is not evil. His power condemns him to live as a feared outcast because he does not have the courage to overcome his obstacles.
At the end of the story, we get a brief glimpse of Jason Miller and his wife at home with their new baby. This scene provides us with an indication that Jason is beginning to have some doubts about the way he has chosen to use his powers.
The Preview issue of Rising Stars delivers the type of story we have come to expect from J. Michael Straczynski. It is a story about characters. These are complex characters. The heroes do not have perfect morals, and the criminals are not black-hearted. They are human beings with histories that are sometimes driven to do what they do by forces that they can not control or chose not to control.
Also in classic Straczynski fashion, we are provided with a piece of foreshadowing for the main story arc. A Special named Joey Drake, a man with no enemies, has recently died, possibly the victim of murder.
More than a year after its initial release, the Preview issue has been republished in color. This time it is referred to as Prelude. The price is a more palatable $2.95.
The highlight of the coloring is Pyre's fiery appearance. It's also educational to compare the bare pencils in the Preview with the inked and colored Prelude. Unfortunately, the art is inconsistent. One panel will be highly detailed while the next will show an over-inked figure that may or may not be human.
Unlike the Preview, the first page of Prelude begins on the left-hand page. This changes which pages face each other throughout the book and subtly changes the flow of the story. The most positive aspect of this change is that the two pages featuring battles between Pyre and Flagg now face each other.
The back of the book contains the same interviews with Gary Frank and J. Michael Straczynski and most of the same art samples that appear in the back of Midnight Nation 1.
The synopsis provides a detailed summary of the Preview / Prelude issue. It contains spoilers.