Pilot Season - Stellar #1


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Pilot Season - Stellar #1


  • Words: Robert Kirkman
  • Art: Bernard Chang
  • Colors: Felix Serrano
  • Publisher: Top Cow Productions/Image Comics
  • Price: $2.99
  • Release Date: Jul 28, 2010

Top Cow’s Pilot Season has always intrigued me – at least, in premise. As a writer, I understand the frustration of having too many ideas and not enough time or resources to follow through on all of them. Pilot Season, as writer Robert Kirkman states in his column at the end of Stellar #1, gives creators the opportunity to explore in more depth “these little nuggets.”

Unfortunately in Stellar #1, collaborators Kirkman and Marc Silvestri fail to capitalize on the unique opportunity afforded them by Pilot Season. The concept – a toxic superhuman, forced into a life of lonely isolation by the very abilities that make her one of the most powerful beings in the universe – is an interesting one but it never really takes flight. To continue Kirkman’s metaphor, this particular “nugget” needs a bit more refining before it can truly shine.

Stellar #1 isn’t the worst comic I’ve ever read – or the worst Top Cow title I’ve come across. It just really isn’t that great either. The visual storytelling is solid and I was impressed by Bernard Chang’s artwork but pretty pictures alone don’t always make for good comics. If a sturdy framework doesn’t exist from which the artist can build a visually stunning world to support the initial concept, then everything else, from characters to settings, rings hollow or forced.

And that’s what missing in Stellar. Kirkman only provides a bare bones skeleton of a plot and a rickety one at that. Presumably, the Pilot Season titles are supposed to provide more than a simple snapshot of the story concept and sufficiently outline the premise so that fans can then vote in an informed fashion. It’s hard to identify with a title and/or protagonist when the audience never learns her name, until an accompanying column at the end of the comic.

Kirkman spends numerous pages on a rather pointless battle with a rampaging beast displaying his protagonist’s capabilities but doesn’t bother dropping a nickname or alias throughout the issue – unless it happens to be “you.” Similarly, he seeds the story with vague references to exile from Earth by the very people that spawned Stellar but never shows the audience even a glimpse of the society that could create such powerful beings.

Chang gamely attempts to fill in the gaps, relating what little story there is clearly and efficiently. A solid visual storyteller, his pages feature clean, tight panel progression and subtly expressive faces. Chang doesn’t scrimp on the backgrounds, attempting to fill up a rather lean script with exotic fauna and flora and sweeping landscapes. I wouldn’t say he falls short exactly. He just didn’t have much to work with in the first place.

Kirkman notes in his column that he was trying to create a story that the artist would have fun drawing and usually playing to your collaborator’s strengths is a smart move. As he states, that way “you’re likely to get the best of what an artist can do…” If his goal was to create a story Bernard Chang would have fun drawing, then I suppose Kirkman was pretty successful. I’m just not so sure the rest of us will jump on the bandwagon and come along for the ride.

But what do I know? That’s the cool thing about the Pilot Season books. The audience gets to choose which of them go on to publication. It’s not often we’re afforded such a direct mainline into a creator’s imagination with these little glimpses of the books that could have been or might yet be.

It’s even more rare when a publisher puts that kind of control in the hands of their readers. Fanboys spend a lot of time pissing and moaning about their “favorite” books – about plots and storylines, creative teams, and editorial decisions. For once, we have a say in at least a few of those things.

So, don’t waste the opportunity to finally have a voice, because someone’s finally asking.

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