From the moment I saw the cover of Doctor Star & The Kingdom of Lost Tomorrows, I suspected I knew what I was in for. The earlier comics set in the reality of Black Hammer paid tribute to various classic concepts from pulp fiction and Golden Age superhero comics with a modern twist, with varying degrees of subtlety. Doctor Star does a poor job of hiding its source material, but that only makes the tribute shine all the stronger.
Even before we find out that our protagonist’s name is Dr. James Robinson, it’s clear that Doctor Star is intended as a tribute to DC Comics’ Starman. James Robinson, for those who don’t know, was the writer who, just under a quarter of a century ago, set out to develop a common mythology between six superheroes who, apart from one father/son pairing, shared nothing but a name.
While the American comic book industry at large was moving toward deconstructing its icons and replacing them with more “extreme” variations on the classic themes, Robinson presented readers with Jack Knight – a hero who looked every bit the disaffected Gen-X hipster but whose heart ultimately bled four-colors. For 80 months from 1994 until 2001, Robinson told the tale of how Jack made peace with his estranged father and became a hero and a better person while simultaneously exploring how that was not always the same thing.
The first issue of Doctor Star & The Kingdom of Lost Tomorrows establishes boundaries that will seem slightly familiar to fans of Robinson’s Starman. Dr. James Robinson is introduced as an astronomer whose theories regarding tapping the primal power of the stars earn him a grant from a government looking for ways to win World War II. When Robinson’s experiments prove successful, he does what any patriotic American of the era would do – throw on a costume and get ready to punch some Nazis. This, coupled with the wonders of his scientific discoveries, sends Dr. Robinson further and further away from his wife and infant son.
Far from seeming derivative of Robinson’s work, Jeff Lemire pens a worthy tribute to it. While the base concept of an astronomer developing a cosmic weapon to fight Nazis is identical, Lemire’s script tackles the themes of father and son legacies from the perspective of the father whereas Robinson largely viewed the same issues from the perspective of the son. There are other subtle differences, but I shall leave those a mystery for you to discover.
Max Fiumara’s artwork is born of the same pulp comic aesthetic as Lemire’s writing. The motion of the characters is fluid, with the perspective shifting continually from panel to panel in a way that subtly holds the reader’s interest even in the more mundane sequences of people just talking. Dave Stewart’s colors add another layer to the finished art, with Stewart alternating the palettes between those scenes set in the mundane modern day and the flashbacks to the glory days of Doctor Star.
Even if you aren’t as big a fan of Starman as I am or have yet to read any other Black Hammer comics, there much to admire in Doctor Star & The Kingdom Of Lost Tomorrows. This is everything awesome about classic comic books viewed through the rose-tented goggles of modern day superheroics. I highly recommend it.
Doctor Star & The Kingdom of Lost Tomorrows #1
is due out in comic stores on March 7, 2018.