Stargirl Spring Break Special #1

It’s hard being a superhero when you’ve homework assignments to hand in. Courtney Whitmore isn’t the first teen heroine to learn this lesson, but it doesn’t mean she’s not feeling the pressure. Happily, while being Stargirl can cause problems, it’s also a release – what better way to express and exorcise frustrations than to blast super-baddies with a cosmic staff?

Another way to release pent-up energy presents itself when stepdad Pat Dugan – the veteran hero STRIPE – takes Courtney to South Carolina’s Myrtle Beach on a mission. It’s Spring Break, party time!

As it happens, Pat’s all business, having been called by his old pal the Vigilante to… well, he doesn’t know yet.

Elsewhere, another of Pat’s chums, Green Arrow Oliver Queen, is giving his daughter Red Arrow some surprising information.

That off-panel voice also has connections to wartime super-team the Seven Soldiers of Victory – it’s the new Crimson Avenger, here to grab Ollie for the selfsame mission Pat’s been summoned for.

Confused? You won’t be, as comics writer par excellence Geoff Johns returns to the characters that made his name, though back then Courtney and Pat’s series was titled Stars and STRIPE. Johns skilfully spells out characters and relationships before flinging his heroes into a wacky, but deadly serious, situation.

The villain of the hour is Clock King. The Silver Age bad guy so wretched he was a member of Justice League Antarctica is causing havoc as he dabbles not with his usual gimmicky timepieces but actual chronal energy.

After Vigilante and Crimson Avenger take Pat, Green Arrow and the Shining Knight off to find Clock King, Red Arrow – Emiko Queen – shares a disturbing fact with Courtney.

If you’ve enjoyed Geoff Johns’ previous DC work, you’ll likely love this book. It’s steeped in legacy, picking up on characters and plots from DC’s near-90 years of history, while feeling fresh and modern. The early revelation/retcon that Green Arrow and Speedy of the modern age were the same guys who fought in the Forties knocked me for a loop – in a good way. Well, DC has been saying that as of the most recent Crisis event, everything counts. It’s quite the extra layer to add on to the already complicated continuities of Ollie and ward Roy Harper, and I hope we get a follow-up.

It certainly seems that Johns plans to take up some of the threads he introduces here, from a hint that a Golden Ager has a heretofore unrevealed relative to the return of two heroes who haven’t been seen for many a year, one from Young Justice, the other a Young All-Stars member. The final panel of the main narrative announces a new Stargirl series – perhaps to coincide with the upcoming second season of the TV series – and then there’s the epilogue, which has to be telling us Johns is returning to write his biggest DC hit.

This is a busy comic (did I mention a nod to The Dark Knight Returns?) but with double the usual page count there’s enough room for the art of Todd Nauck to breathe – and lovely art it is too. I’ve always enjoyed Nauck’s good-natured, characterful style, and here it looks better than ever. There’s one double-page spread that’s just magnificent, but every panel is a winner. I hope this is the beginning of a return to a regular DC series, because Nauck is the kind of talent DC needs – a great storyteller, distinct and as adept at emotion as action.

He does do that thing I’m forever moaning about, signing a page, but as he’s acknowledging a Todd McFarlane homage – to what I have no idea – I can forgive him. The point is, Nauck’s pages, from the cover on, are terrific, and gorgeously coloured by Hi-Fi, while Rob Leigh excels on the lettering… his title design for ‘The Seven Soldiers of Spring Break’ is a treat.

Ah yes, Spring Break – as I understand it, that’s basically US for the Easter Holidays for college kids. Bar a few panels here and there, it’s not referenced, and it’s certainly not relevant to the story. It’s a hook for the Special, though, and it did make me think of the wonderful Blue Devil Summer Fun Annual from the Eighties, which is never bad.

And I’m thrilled beyond measure to see the Seven Soldiers of Victory back in play via all sorts of time travel shenanigans; I hope they don’t fade away after this issue. Red Arrow is a great substitute for Speedy, showing a lot more personality here than she has in dozens of Teen Titans appearances. The oddball creepiness of the new Crimson Avenger grabs the attention. And something we learn about Shining Knight made me a little sad (as if the telly beard isn’t tragic enough).

Following the story we get a few extra features: a fun set of letters from Courtney explaining her spotty school record, written by her TV avatar, Brec Bassinger and realised by DC graphics gal Amie Brockway-Metcalf; a wonderful ‘Where’s Stripesey?’ page by the genius that is Fred Hembeck; and this suitable-for-framing beauty.

The masterful Jerry Ordway pencilling and inking characters from the Greatest Generation – superhero comic art doesn’t get any better than this.

I mentioned the epilogue earlier but didn’t tell you it’s drawn, in glorious style, by Bryan Hitch, another sign that something big is coming. You’ve probably guessed who it concerns, I want to show you… but it’s the end of the story, and you’re much better off seeing it in context. You won’t be disappointed.

I can’t see any aspect of this Andrew Marino-edited issue disappointing anyone, but all views are welcome. If you’ve read it, how was it for you? Stargirl Spring Break Special has certainly left me grinning from ear to ear.

26 thoughts on “Stargirl Spring Break Special #1

  1. I loved it too. Are we sure it’s Johns? There was no gore and no mass murderers treated like they were redeemable. My only complaint is that there’s no Danette Reilly in the JSA stuff or in the story about Sir Justin. If everything counts, their wartime romance, eventual marriage, and Firebrand’s subsequent death should be mentioned.

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  2. And why no mention that Lee Travis was terminally ill when he went on that last adventure? His death is still sad but not saving a terminally ill man puts a differen spin on his loss.

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  3. Oh and a quick internet check to confirm my memory of Travis’ terminal illness, I discovered Johns also left out the wrinkle that the Ultra Humanite was also involved.

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  4. Loved it! This is the Geoff Johns I enjoy reading. See… he can do stories with stakes and no one needs to lose an arm or a head or have their parents retroactively murdered. He needs to do more of these kinds of stories.
    I’m all for more of Courtney. The sooner the better. Especially if this is the creative team (although I wouldn’t say no to Lee Moder returning to take a crack at the art). I loved the look again at the Seven Soldiers (and like you, was pleasantly surprised at how they wove GA and Speedy into the Golden Age).
    I have no faith that a JSA series is going to come out (especially with those two on board. They’re going to need to have twelve issues in the can and even then, I bet we get delays). But if they prove me wrong, I’ll happily buy it.

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    1. I do see the unlikeliness of a JSA series from Johns appearing on time, given the evidence of Doomsday Clock and Shazam! Hitch can certainly do the monthly bit these days, having somehow simplified his art – I forget how he put it, but it fed into his managing 12 monthly issues of Hawkman. It can’t all have been a good lead time.

      But I read superhero comics. I have hope!

      And yes, while I think Todd Nauck has earned the ongoing Stargirl gig should he want it, I’d be chuffed to bits to see Lee Moder pop back for an annual, say.

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  5. As a fan of Johns’ original JSA run and Stars and S.T.R.I.P.E. this looks great!!! But I’ve got to say in a weird way it makes me sad, too. For over four years – fall 2011 through 2015 – DC insisted we forget about its wonderful history. Then for about another four/five years – 2016 with the New 52 through 2020 – DC reversed course and EVER-SO-SLOWLY reintroduced that history, capping with the finale of Death Metal just a few months ago. And now we have Geoff Johns writing a single issue book that, really, could have been “released from the vault” given it treats a bunch of JSA/Stars and S.T.R.I.P.E characters/concepts as if they never went missing for a decade and we’re back in the pre-New52 days. While I think DC has released some great books since 2011, it just seems like such a waste to have spent so much time jerking long time fans around, just to return to storytelling that we never wanted abandoned in the first place. It also just feels a bit weird because clearly there’s been no progression in the lives of Stargirl or any of these other characters since Johns last wrote them pre-New52. So I know it’s weird to feel “sad” but that’s how I feel about this situation…

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    1. I get it, Brian, I do, but I’m used to characters who haven’t been seen for years coming back pretty much the same. Blame/credit slow comic book time. The alternative is that writers try to shock us with revoltin’ developments. Try not to be sad, concentrate on the fun!

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    2. I’ve always thought it’d be nice if returning characters alluded to a life lived between on panel appearances.

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  6. Oh, man, this was a blast. And I’m sure I know the two-page spread you mean — it was eye-popping!

    As for the Nauck tribute to McFarlane, I imagine it’s copping one of his layouts from Infinity Inc.: In those early issues, he used to show a panel progression on one side of the page and a close-up of the hero on the other, as the background. I don’t know the exact one Nauck is referencing, but I’m sure that’s what he’s going for.

    What I’m not sure about is the newly-introduced sibling of a Golden Ager… I think that detail slipped by me. Who do you mean?

    You did clarify who “Danny” was in the page where Wing and the other two kids were running from someone… it’ll be dynamite to see that kid again! (My only thought was it could’ve been the much-reviled Danny Chase — which I have to admit, I’d kind of admire the audaciousness of anyone who tried to bring him back.)

    And I’m with Steve: Bring back Dannette Reilly!

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    1. Not ‘sibling’, ‘relative’ – I was wondering if Judy Garrick might be a heretofore unrevealed child of Jay and Joan. You know the Wizard liked to hide kiddies away…

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    2. I say bring back Danny Chase AND Kole. I remember being surprised so many other people hated Danny. I enjoyed the character.

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  7. Oh, I saw that name, and then completely forgot about it! Good question!

    And then there’s also whatever Green Arrow saw when he got hit with the time-whammy! “I saw it all at once… the past, and the future… and something else.”

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  8. Stargirl; both the CW series and the Spring Break Special; use Geoff Johns’ encyclopedic comic book knowledge to the best All Ages effect. Longtime fans can appreciate how Johns has curated characters all the way back to the Golden Age, while new readers benefit from a Baker’s Dozen of well-established heroes in one adventure together deepening the leadership abilities of Stargirl. (James Robinson; another Golden Age expert; has also written several resonant Stargirl TV episodes.)
    Johns is using Stargirl as a gateway to introduce audiences to the Seven Soldiers of Victory, JSA and the Injustice Society in a modern context. For this reason, the CWs Stargirl is the most diverse conversion to live action TV that DC has accomplished, yet.
    The CWs Stargirl is set in the small town of Blue Valley, a show which combines the warmth of THE WALTONS with the high octane action of ARROW.
    The casting on Stargirl is simply stellar, anchored by Brec Bassinger who reminds me of a young vampire slayer named Sarah Michelle Gellar.
    DC retains the rights to all of their properties and Stargirl benefits from access to thousands of characters from 80 years of publishing.
    Created in 1999, Stargirl is well-positioned to become a breakout pop culture character for DC if they continue to play their cards right!

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    1. Thanks for a great post Brad, the TV show really is a wonderful watch, with Geoff Johns’ involved giving us possibly the best page-to-TV-screen transfer yet. I really hope the new Stargirl series is a hit and runs on a complementary basis with the TV drama.

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      1. Martin, I’m glad we agree that CWs Stargirl is disarmingly good live action TV! Expecting DC to concurrently run a monthly comic seems… optimistic. CWs Stargirl is so much more layered than was the Spring Break Special, even though the Special was much stronger than Stargirl’s intial run at DC. Johns did his best writing for Stargirl during his excellent JSA run, a book that was stronger than JLA was at the time. Honestly, JSA was the best team book of the Big Two around the Return Of Hawkman arc – one bold move after another. My hope is that CWs Stargirl gets the full attention of Johns: for me, that’s the winning legacy which this creation deserves 😀

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      2. DC couldn’t come up with a Supergirl to match the TV show even remotely. If they tried with Stargirl, imagine the ugliness that could ensue!

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  9. Whiling I’d prefer this refit back to an Earth 2 setting I suppose that Crisis has sailed.

    Ollie being his own progenitor gives me a slight headache, though I’m glad that the Soldiers of Victory have a Green Arrow and Speedy back in their backstory. I’m still not clear how or if that works when we deal with the Soldiers as a “lost” team of the 40s to the 70s—-or may be it does.,, excuse me, the Starfleet Temporal Police are at the door.

    I do agree that using the renewed popularity of Stargirl is a perfect way for the DC Golden Age legacy to be a thing for the future of DC. Beautiful as they were, I hope we get more than Pin-ups to solidify that promise.

    Most importantly, the one and only true Vigilante is here! No aging beer gut, no lycanthropy- no unneeded gimmicks, and a slight in text reveal about the relationship of Greg Sanders (correct spelling) and his late father, Sheriff Tom. I didn’t even mind the white hat, and Todd knows how to respectfully draw western-cut apparel.

    All in all, a fun story and I look forward to the promised ongoing titles. Don’t let us down again, DC.

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    1. Thanks for the comment Ranger Gord, I would be thoroughly disappointed if Stargirl’s new book is subject to the delays recent Johns projects have been subject to – it’s the spot of sunshine I need. And hopefully the rest of the Soldiers will show up in the new JSA book that has to happen. Maybe all the JSA-ers could wear white hat and matching jeans?

      (And if any Vigilante fans out there aren’t aware of Ranger Gord’s podcast, seek out Prairie Justice: A Greg Sanders Podcast on your podcaster.)

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  10. Great review, Martin! Any review that mentions the Blue Devil Summer Fun Annual is top-notch! 😁 I also adored this comic! Sadly I don’t read any new comics from DC anymore because they haven’t brought me joy in years. I tried this issue on a whim… and boy was this glorious! As you outlined in your review, this book has fun, has beautiful art, honors legacy, and so much more!!

    Even the Green Arrow/Speedy retcon works for me. Sure if you look too closely at the continuity, it begins to get shaky. But as a broad stoke, I feel it’s an elegant solution that returns all the SSOV history. Sort of like John Byrne’s Wonder Woman/Pollie World War II retcon many years ago.

    I was going to answer your McFarlane question, but I see a commentor already beat me to it.

    Regarding the epilogue “Past is Prologue”, there are so many layers in there! Trying to be vague as you didn’t spoil in your review, but look very closely at the background of that page. The left page and right page are different – not a single double-page image. Interesting. And the foreground appears to be mixing Johns precious continuity with the Stargirl TV series continuity. Fascinating.

    Forgive the plug, but next month the JUSTICE SOCIETY PRESENTS PODCAST will have an episode on this comic where Sean Ross and I just ooze our love for this book!

    Again, great review!

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    1. Thanks for the kind words, Shag, it’s good to know you enjoyed this issue too. I love the GA and Speedy reveal, it’s so wild, so DC – I hope we see a flashback to how Ollie and Roy faced up to the past… a GA Special, perhaps. And thanks for another excuse to look at that JSA spread, I can’t imagine why we have two presentations of the team in the background, it’s not as if we could say one is the Forties team and one the Seventies, as they don’t quite match what we saw. Then again, continuity does keep hiccuping, maybe Diana was now a member in the Bronze Age… boy, that modern Hourman outfit is hideous, it’s not even the telly one – no cape! Ta for the advance warning on the upcoming Stargirl comic podcast, I shall keep an eye on the show website here – http://fireandwaterpodcast.com/show/fwpresents/ – and my feed!

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