Overview

Rising Stars #24

Review

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Rising Stars #24

Credits

  • Words: J. Michael Staczynski
  • Art: Brent Anderson
  • Inks: n/a
  • Colors: Brian Buccelato
  • Story Title: Phoenix in Ascension 3 of 3
  • Price: $3.99
  • Release Date: Mar 2, 2005

It’s hard to believe that it’s actually over.

It seems like ages ago when I took a chance and picked up the first couple issues of some superhero comic everyone was making a lot of fuss over. And from the moment I started reading, J. Michael Straczynski’s Rising Stars rocked my world .

Here was a superhero comic that was intelligent, deliberate, and serious. It was like superhero books had grown up overnight, and having reached the end of my teens at about that same time, it was a perfect fit. Of course the artwork was stunning, and by the time the first of several plot twists revealed itself, my world, as I said before, was totally rocked.

The second act was more conventional hero vs. villain fare, but it was still an amazingly gripping read. Good stuff. And then the curtain came up on the promised third and final act of the story. That was years ago.

The final act of Rising Stars has been about the fact that though amazing gifts can come to humanity, a certain amount of the jealousy, power-mongering, and selfishness inherent in people will still more than likely bring about the end. The surviving Pederson Specials have realized that their gifts were not an accident . Their combined talents were meant to make the world a better place, and so they put aside their fighting and work to heal the world. And yet people in power still actively plot to destroy them. It’s been a terribly tragic story, but still very powerful.

But the saddest part of the tale is that a certain amount of what the bad people do to the Specials was done by the real-life entertainment industry types to Straczynski himself. The result was that the final few issues of Rising Stars were delayed so legal issues could be settled. That took a while, and really took the wind out of the sails of a powerful finale.

Like most season finales for great shows that have finally reached their end, the issue itself feels deflated . Mostly, it’s a recap of most of the things we knew so far. The final reveal, which has to do with the origin of the Pederson flash that gave the children their powers, is a nice bookend to the story. But it lacks the punch that so many of the story’s reveals have had so far.

The artwork in the book over the last few issues has also suffered. When the book began, it had the definitive sharp Top Cow style complemented with lavish colors. Now it seems a little smudgy. Looking at Christian Zanier’s pages from the first few issues and comparing them against Brent Anderson’s work on the final issues, it’s like looking at two different comic books. Straczynski, ever the champion of contained independent stories, needed consistency of style. The story deserved it. A book that had such thoughtful design deserved way better than the lackluster final pages which descend into uninspired sci-fi territory. It’s really a shame.

When I bought the final issue, I was hopeful. It felt heavy in my hand. And it cost a buck more. "Good," I thought to myself, "they fattened up the last issue to really send this thing out with a bang." But they didn’t, really. The story is still 22 pages. The rest of the oversize book is filled with eight pages of sketchbook material that really looks like it was six pages stretched out to fill eight, followed by ads and yet another preview for Hunter-Killer. It’s getting to the point that I’m expecting to get to the bottom of my bowl of cereal in the morning only to find a preview for Hunter-Killer there, too.

Collectors and people as deeply invested in the story of Rising Stars are going to want this final issue to bring some much-needed closure. It could have ended stronger, but Rising Stars is still one of the best and most important things to happen to superhero comics in my lifetime, and I’m grateful to Straczynski for finding a way to make sure we got to see how the story ended.

- Jesse Vigil

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