Kid Kosmos: Kidnapped original graphic novel
Writer/Artist/Cover artist: Jim Starlin
Letters: Bill Tortolini
Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment
Price: $19.95 US
Jim Starlin certainly left his mark on super-hero comics in the 1970s and ’80s, and it’s showing up prominently in recent event comics from Marvel Comics, such as Thanos’s role in Annihilation and the resurrection of Captain Marvel in Civil War: The Return, a Silver Age character that Starlin took and made his own. In many ways, Starlin is the acknowledged king of cosmic super-hero storytelling. Just look at the free rein DC seems to have given him with the current Mystery in Space limited series. Starlin was also one of many pioneers in the 1980s when it came to creator-owned comics. His Dreadstar comics are still considered classics, and it’s encouraging to see that he’s still crafting astral adventures for new, cosmic crusaders, even three decades after he started. Apparently, he’s still doing what he loves. This book is a spinoff from Starlin’s Cosmic Guard comics, also publisher by Dynamite Entertainment, but as the title suggests, it stars a younger protagonist. In many ways, this is a typical story about a greenhorn teen hero who’s in over his head, dressed up with some of the trappings of DC’s Green Lantern Corps. It’s colorful and full of energy and imagination, but it’s also burdened by an unwieldy and redundant supporting cast as well as a lack of the kind of history and continuity that might allow this story to work within the confines of a shared super-hero universe.
Teenage orphan Ray Torres finds his miserable life on Earth transformed into something fantastic when he’s chosen to become a Protege, which is something of a cadet in an interstellar law-enforcement organization known as the Cosmic Guard. The time draws near when Ray will have to assume his role as the protector of Earth’s space sector, and his instructors and new alien friends begin the testing of his cosmic powers with minor missions, such as thwarting a terrorist plot and establishing contact with the U.S. government. But Ray soon discovers things rarely go according to plan. And if that weren’t headache enough, cosmic villains such as Hyperion Mors and the Genociders plot his demise.
Starlin’s distinct style shines through in this book, but to my surprise, not as consistently as one might expect. I do like the design for Hyperion Mors and the organic, fluid shapeshifting effects that accompany his appearances. Starlin’s designs for the other alien characters almost seem random, though. It’s good that he strives to distinguish among the various alien friends, mentors and guides who surround Ray at all times, I suppose. The greatest visual strength of the book is the coloring. The colors are vibrant and full of energy, reinforcing the cosmic nature of the characters, circumstances and events. I do like the simple and flexible design structure for the Cosmic Guard costumes, though Starlin’s taste in design is apparent when viewed in the broader context of his body of work. For example, the Kid Kosmos design has a lot in common with the look Starlin established for the Weird, a DC character he created in the 1980s that he recently resurrected in Mystery in Space.
I think it’s great that Dynamite and Jim Starlin are offering up new stories in a graphic-novel format rather than an initial release in the more familiar episodic, “floppy” format comic-book readers know. There’s just one problem: Dynamite is asking for 20 bucks for the equivalent of six regular comic books. That strikes me as a little pricy, and I expect it will alienate potential customers.
It took me a while to realize that this was an extension of Starlin’s previous Cosmic Guard comics from Dynamite Entertainment, which I hadn’t read before. It’s clear from the tone of Starlin’s script is that he’s trying to build an entire mythology around these characters. The Cosmic Guard seems very much like Starlin’s answer to the Green Lantern Corps or Marvel’s Nova Corps. He tries to bring gravity and credibility to these concepts with a greater sense of history, but that attempt at a larger context falls short. It just rings hollow.
Some of the storytelling is a bit derivative, but it makes up for its lack of originality with a palpable sense of energy and fun. Where the book goes awry is with the supporting cast. It’s just too huge an array of peripheral characters, all seemingly fulfilling similar roles. It seems as though there’s half a dozen people training Kid Kosmos and another group just to serve as his entourage of friends. Each one of these aliens is more wacky or exotic than the last one, and there are so many of them that few get a chance to really establish a personality. Furthermore, Ray is the only grounded character with which the reader can connect. There needs to be more of a human side to this cosmic plot. 4/10