STARGIRL: THE LOST CHILDREN #1/ Written by GEOFF JOHNS/ Art by TODD NAUCK/ Colors by MATT HERMS/ Letters by ROB LEIGH/ Published by DC COMICS
The chief problem with Stargirl: The Lost Children is that it is two comics in one, written by two writers called Geoff Johns. One is the Geoff Johns who writes a lot of big event books built around high concepts. The other Geoff Johns writes simpler books about people who just happen to be wearing colorful costumes while dealing with fantastic things. It is a subtle difference, but one I couldn’t help but think about while reading this book.
Picking up where The New Golden Age #1 left off, most of Stargirl: The Lost Children concerns the titular lost children and the high concept that many of the child heroes who once worked with the first superheroes have gone missing. Nominally, this is an excuse for Johns to nerd out over comic history few people care about and answer questions like why Hourman never had a boy wonder but Sandman did.
There is another story underneath the main plot, and to my mind it is far more interesting. It is the story of how Courtney “Stargirl” Whitmore and Emiko “Red Arrow” Queen somehow became friends and bonded as teen superheroes who became superheroes in spite of the wishes of their respective guardians. Johns’ decision to bond these two characters is a brilliant one. Unfortunately, that story took place entirely off-panel and is referenced only as a result of Red Arrow helping Stargirl sneak out of the house so they can go continue their search for one of the titular Lost Children.
This made me think of Johns’ writing and a discussion I had with a friend about why I generally like Johns’ work and they did not. It occurred to me that, in a way, we were discussing two different writers. When I thought of Geoff Johns, I thought of his character-based early works, like Stars & STRIPE, JSA and The Flash. They associated Geoff Johns with overblown spectacle books that were built around ideas, like Three Jokers, Doomsday Clock and Flashpoint.
I see their point, but that doesn’t stop me from wishing that Johns had spent the last few years working on monthly titles instead of trying to map out a new timeline for DC Comics, so we could see Emiko and Courtney driving Pat Dugan and Oliver Queen crazy. And I wish Todd Nauck had been the one drawing that hypothetical monthly comic, because his work here is perfectly suited towards Stargirl’s adventures. Nauck’s style radiates light. His art is bright and friendly, which makes the horror of Johns’ story all the more powerful when it hits for that incongruity. The bright palette favored by Matt Herms aids in the crafting of this fine illusion.
This first chapter of Stargirl: The Lost Children is a conflicted book, but that mirrors the conflict in the heart of DC Comics. I think most readers are tired of big events and the books I hear discussed most enthusiastically are the ones unconnected to big events. Yet it is apparently the big event books that drive the sales of the monthly series, if not the trade collections. I don’t know what the answer is. All I know is that there were parts of this book I enjoyed very much, though they made me wish for a series that doesn’t exist on our Earth.