Pilot Season: Stellar #1 Review

It’s been far too long since I’ve read anything from Top Cow, but I must say, it’s good to be back. Stellar is the latest offering from the Cow’s very smart Pilot Season initiative that sees a bunch of different one-shots compete for a mini-series. This batch is from Image partners Robert Kirkman (writer of The Walking Dead, Invincible) and superstar penciller Marc Silvestri.

Written by Kirkman, with art by Bernard Chang and cover by Silvestri, this is a very good example of how not to judge  a book by its cover. At first glance this may appear to be some sort of homage to the kinds of comics that were far too frequent last decade, ie, bad girl/good girl/sexy girl in a tight outfit fighting crime with mysterious poses, gravity defying poses and a basic plot that’s merely an excuse for all of that. However, upon further investigation, Stellar proves itself as a solid read, thanks mainly to the skilled Kirkman.

As he details in a closing page explaining the genesis of this concept, the book has the potential to go anywhere – to exotic planets with wild creatures and more and we get a tantalising glimpse of those concepts here, but based on these pages, I hope Stellar wins.

The premise for the book is an intriguing place to start. We’re not told the main character’s name, but can assume her nickname is Stellar. Essentially, she’s 1 of 5 soldiers who have been genetically enhanced on Earth. The powers are good, but the fact that the radiation within them causes other humans close to them to get sick is not so good. Nor is the fact that Stellar’s fellow volunteers were driven mad (and apparently evil) by the process. Stellar is the only one who desires to be a hero, so uses her powers to wander the universe doing just that, all the while aware she’s truly alone. All of that is a great spring board for an even greater tale, and Kirkman wisely drops hints about all this throughout each page turn. No awkward exposition here!

The issue begins with Stellar fending off a Rhino-Predatorsaurus type creature to find a healing herb for an old friend’s son, while recording in her journal, Captain Kirk-style. After some interesting developments including a possible romance, her feelings of loneliness and a foreboding offer she can’t refuse, Stellar’s world gets dangerous and complicated, and interesting.

Chang’s art is a nice blend of emotional moments and sci-fi splendour. His layouts are dynamic and there’s never a page without a  sense of drama or danger. Creatures and characters look real; leaning more towards Star Trek than Wars.

My vote’s on Stellar. Kirkman, as he reveals in his afterword, has a host of ideas for this book and I hope we get to see them. Stellar is but a tasty appetiser to what could be a potential buffet.

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