The saga of Starr the Slayer, full of sex and violence and some very strong language, wraps up in this issue.
There’s a fine line between a humorous tribute and camp, and this comic edges a bit over the line into being camp. Where the previous three issues seemed to tread the line between humor and action carefully, this issue tumbles a bit over the edge into pure camp, as there’s just a bit too much mocking humor to make the story work completely on its own terms. What we’re left with is a comic that seems to mock itself just a bit too much.
For instance, when Starr hacks off the hand of a fire-breathing monster, the monster seems more concerned about his future sex life than the pain: “t’will take me years to learn to manipulate my nasty organ lefty. You’ll pay for that, Starr!”
Or when the evil king tries to free the writer creating Starr’s story from magical bounds, he goes out of his way to explain that it must be done a certain way: “The magical constraint must be navigated precisely, let ye burst into infernal flame.” before he gives up, “Oh fuck it – just come here.”
That would be a cute little scene, but the problem is that the whole comic is filled with scenes like that. Even a major battle scene between Starr and the woman warrior Tira is played for laughs, with comments about hurting titties and anachronistic lines like “bitch, please” before the fight turns, maybe inevitably, into foreplay.
The overall effect is a sort of mocking that causes the reader to feel distanced from the story. The previous three issues had a bit more of a serious edge to them, but this issue feels more like one of those silly movie spoofs like Epic Movie than an adventure story with comedic overtimes. Unfortunately, the humor’s just plain not funny enough to make a comic like that work really successfully.
Richard Corben’s art is exquisite, though. By this point, he’s been drawing barbarians and strange worlds for so long that he knows how to squeeze the maximum level of drama and excitement from these strange worlds. Corben is definitely adept at creating a world that feels worn and lived-in, a world that feels frayed around the edges and a bit used up.
Corben’s art is perfect for a barbarian story, but in this issue it’s in service to a story that’s just a bit too over-the-top, a bit too silly and odd for its own good.