Writer: J.M. DeMatteis
Artist: Mike Ploog, Nick Bell (colors)
Publisher: Boom! Studios
Fantasy fans, rejoice! We currently have a perfect comic book fantasy epic occupying the shelves at your local shop (that is, if your shop carries this title)! Stardust Kid, without a doubt, is one of the finest comic books on the market today, and the team of J.M. DeMatteis and Mike Ploog should receive credit for creating this fine work not once, but twice. Back in the days of Crossgen (Gosh, I still miss Sojourn!), Abadazad was the shining star of the company, though the series only lasted three issues before the roof caved in. After the Crossgen crash, I hoped that DeMatteis and Ploog would team up again in the future to produce something even close to Abadazad. I think they have accomplished that feat with Stardust Kid, which shares many similarities to the former series, but has an identity and a world all its own. This is the only comic book this year that has enveloped me completely as I read, transporting my imagination to whole new realms as my inner child screamed with delight. Hopefully I didnít wake the neighbors!
DeMatteis and Ploog are the undisputed masters of the all ages comic book fantasy, combining many of the elements of childhood and adulthood together to create a fascinating whole. The perspective of the tale is seen through the eyes of children who have been thrust into a fantastic world full of strange creatures, weird locales, and exciting adventure. But what makes this tale and all great childhood fantasy tales complete is the melding of reality and fantasy that only a younger mind can accomplish. Our analytical adult minds are so concentrated on surviving in and dealing with the real world, with the modern problems and challenges that we face constantly, that the intrusion of a fantasy world would probably immobilize us with the improbability of it all. A childís mind, however, is able to combine fantasy and reality rather effortlessly since life is full of dreams and games at their stage. In this issue, K.M. describes her death-defying adventure with the Ruchh, a giant fish, as ďso much fun,Ē when any rational adult would be thanking God for saving her life. When I read this kind of acceptance of the fantastic within the pages of Stardust Kid, I get a tickle in my chest as I think of my childhood and the former care-free nature of my existence. If nothing else, Stardust Kid will transport you to the most familiar of places (your childhood) as well as the most exotic of locations.
I donít have enough room to explain all the elements I love about this series and this issue. The concepts of trust and betrayal are consistent throughout Issue #4, becoming a compelling issue that somewhat resolves itself with the appearance of the Stardust Kid at the end. Also, DeMatteis consciously mirrors his entire tale to the Wizard of Oz (as he did with Abadazad), lending his pen for an homage of what may be one of the finest family fantasy tales ever crafted. Because, like the Wizard of Oz and Stardust Kid demonstrates, family and friends are the among the most important things in our lives, and you shouldnít have to travel to a far away land to realize this. Still, it's hard to not want to travel to the places that Mike Ploog has drawn in this issue. My gosh, what a talent this man has, and a talent that seems to be improving in respect to the sequential arts. Every panel is just about perfect, with just the right smattering of smaller, intimate panels and large full page splashes. The childrenís faces profoundly express wonder and shock, and the evil creatures look frightening and powerful. Plus, we canít forget about Nick Bellís amazing command of the colors. There is a reason that DeMatteis and Ploog brought him over from Crossgen! The darkness of the forest and the wonders of the sea are colored with expression that truly jumped out from the pages.
Needless to say, I strongly recommend this issue and this series to anyone. Some may complain that Issue #4 is too wordy for a comic book, but I believe that the creators pace the whole issue smoothly, combining long exposition sections with action-packed visual scenes. Also, others might say that the conversation concerning Codyís "dumping" of Alana may have glossed over some potential moving panels that could show the pain and delight of their respective faces. However, I think that potential scene would have slowed things down too much for the issue at hand, even though Iíll admit I would have liked to have seen it. One thing every reader can agree on is the wonderful narration in this series, which serves to inform as well as entertain with some very funny asides and footnotes (ďI think Iíve made it abundantly clear that I think Timeís about as real as the Easter BunnyĒ). Really, my only wish for this issue is that DeMatteis and Ploog come together for another series after this one, because they make a perfect pair. Also, congratulations should be handed out to Boom! Studios as well, for picking up this excellent title from Image Comics. Once again, Boom! has proven that they are much more interested in quality of product than obtaining stale licensed characters and titles. Bravo all around!
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