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.