Earth Prime: Stargirl #4 review

Do you ever buy a comic with low expectations and then find yourself blown out of the water? That’s what happened with this latest DC tie-in to the WB superhero shows. I saw publicity for the first couple but was put off by the cover art; also, they’re tying into the TV show continuity and I’m at least a year behind on most shows…

… but not Stargirl. I love the show so much that I’ve made sure to keep up, so why not give this a try? Then I opened the book, having paid no attention to the surnames on the cover.

Jerry Ordway! Why did no one tell me a new book was coming out with visuals by one of the most masterful superhero artists even to pick up pencil and ink? And what’s more…

James Robinson! The masterly writer behind Starman, the Golden Age and co-writer of early issues of the turn of the century JSA series. And here he’s co-writing again, with Paula Sevenbergen, one of Robinson’s fellow scribes on some TV show called Stargirl. Things were looking good!

And indeed, this is a wonderful comic book; true to the TV show’s sensibility while tapping into the aforementioned seminal Starman series. Every page sings with gorgeous illustrations and clever moments of storytelling.

Stargirl Courtney Whitmore is on a summer holiday in the wilds of Wyoming with mother Barbara, brother Mike and dad Pat (I’ve put the steps away, they’re a rock solid family, no modifiers necessary).

So it’s into the woods for Courtney and Pat while, back in Blue Valley, someone comes looking for the former Stripesy at his garage, where pal Zeek is holding the fort.

That would be foreboding, folks. Needless to say, the mystery man tracks down Pat and tells him a story.

The Human Bomb had a sidekick? Let me guess… Firecracker?

And that’s as much recap as I’m giving here, because if you’re a fan of Courtney, Pat, the All-Star Squadron or any of the creators I’ve mentioned, you’re likely sold by now. I gift you the opportunity to discovery a wonderful story for yourself.

This could well be my favourite comic book of the year so far. Robinson and Sevenbergen’s script is confident, smart and full of heart. It melds the modern sensibility of Courtney’s world with the rich comic book heritage of Pat. The mystery man has been gone from comics for so long that he almost qualifies as a new character, and it’s his story that gave me the patented Starman glow.

The regular characters all sound like their live action versions and, thanks to Ordway, look and move like them too. As a writer himself, Ordway knows how to sell a story, as brilliantly demonstrated by a page showing the passage of time in prison.

What’s more, the Road Trip – that’s the name of the tale – allows Ordway the excuse to get lyrical with lovely scenes of the Great Outdoors, all gorgeously coloured by the ever-excellent John Kalisz. The glow of the skies, the greens of the flora, it’s all very easy on the eyes. The only colouring decision with which I disagree is the dulling down of the pallete for the All-Star Squadron sequence – it’s echoing the TV series approach to flashbacks, but for a comic book I’d prefer garish primaries to better evoke the Golden Age.

Tom Napolitano’s letters are excellent – sharp, friendly, nicely placed on the page. And while Kim Jacinto’s cover isn’t my cup of tea, that doesn’t mean It’s bad.

You don’t have to be a fan of the Stargirl series to enjoy this. Fans of the Stargirl show won’t need to have read this to enjoy the coming Season 3. They complement one another, but this is a truly stellar standalone.

19 thoughts on “Earth Prime: Stargirl #4 review

  1. I don’t watch any super hero shows (not ongoings at least), have no interest in comic tie ins, and once again you make me feel lik I need to get this. Curse you!

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    1. Read it and the art is very nice. The story? Cliche ridden. Worst was the character at the end who does what every character like him has don efor years in that situation. I almost skipped those pages because of that but didn’t remembering Robinson’s prior cliche smashing works.

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  2. Martin – I’m not into the shows BUT is this one of those “if you squint it could easily just be an issue of the old DCU Stars and STRIPES series” kind of things? ‘Cause I do love Ordway and Robinson.
    In fact last year I got on a James Robinson kick. I own Starman, his early JSA work and The Golden Age, but added to this his Justice League (with Dick Grayson in charge) and Superman (Krypton Returns) runs, some of his Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight arcs, a Batman/Deadman team-up TPB he wrote VERY EARLY in his career at DC, and — I think maybe one of his last DC works — the final issues of the Trinity series where Superman/Batman/Wonder Woman meet the Warlord.
    I enjoyed it all. Yes, some stories were higher quality than others, but even average James Robinson I’d say is better than your average comics.
    His career also really fascinates me. I personally rank him up there with Morrison, Waid, Busiek, Rucka, Brubaker in terms of quality/creativity. But Robinson in contrast seemed to rise, then fall, then disappear.
    As a Starman fan, I, in retrospect, unfairly held all of his post-Starman work up to that for comparison. And that seems to have been his major challenge. Just about everything else he did at DC (and Marvel, too, in later years) either never got the same warm embrace from fans/critics or was downright (unfairly) trashed and maligned. I have not read his Wonder Woman run but remember how it seemed just so negatively received at the time in part because of the backlash over yet another man being assigned the job. And I guarantee it was probably as good as if not better than many other prior runs of that title. Had he taken over Wonder Woman right after Starman it would have been a top-seller.
    But all the goodwill Robinson got from Starman, in which he wrote complex relationships and strong female and gay characters, seemed to have just dissipated.
    And yes, I still can’t bring myself to read Justice League: Cry for Justice, so he does have some pretty clear duds on his resume. But I’d blame how that turned out more on editorial interference/demands rather than the creator, based on interviews I’ve read about that project.
    My long-winded point is it was nice to see him resurface as attached to the Stargirl show. And it would really be nice if that spurred a return to some sort of regular or even semi-regular work at DC. I, for one, really miss his voice.
    And, frankly, I’d love for someone to interview the guy. He ended his Twitter account a few years back. What’s he been up to for, what, the last four or five years (looks like his Wonder Woman run ended in 2018…)? How would he define his career and its ups and downs? And does he have a desire to get back into regular comics work?

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    1. It is indeed one of those ‘squint’ books (I may have to Nick that), helped by the fact that the TV show is so close to the Stars and STRIPE book, new JSA apart.

      I did read Robinson and Bagley’s JLA and really rather enjoyed it, it was fun and refreshing to see the sidekicks do what they’d been brought up to do – take over. Plus, we got Congorilla and blue Starman. Give it a go!

      And I liked his Wonder Woman too, Jason and all.

      I never finished Trinity, though, it was so packed and relentless, I couldn’t keep up with it weekly and packed in with #18 or something – mind, if it’s on the DC Infinity app…

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  3. I noticed this book when it was solicited, but I am a bit confused. Does each issue of the mini-series focus on one of the WB shows? Will this story continue elsewhere? I bought the wonderful Stargirl Summer Vacation Special based on your glowing review and absolutely loved it. At the end of the Summer Vacation Special, it said “to be continued in Stargirl #1.” Did that series ever come out? That would be perfect for James Robinson and Jerry Ordway. Thanks for another great review.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re right to be confused, the series is very confusingly marketed. It shouldn’t be Earth Prime: Stargirl #4 because it’s not the fourth issue of a comic starring Stargirl, it’s the four issue of a comic called Earth Prime, this time starring Stargirl. Earth Prime #4 featuring Stargirl is how it should be. And, sadly, we haven’t had a direct follow-up to that Stargirl special, ditto, no JSA series. It’s a rotten shame.

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  4. Martin, you’ve got me again! I read this post (as I try to do with all of your posts, whether I read the series in question or not), and immediately decided to check this issue out. Lo and behold, it was already available on DCU Infinite! And…it was fantastic! I’ve been a big fan of the CW TV show, and this issue fit in very nicely, with tone and characterization ringing true all around. The art, of course, was an absolute TREAT, made somewhat bittersweet by the realization that we just don’t get to see Mr. Ordway’s interior work very often in comics these days. I’ll be peeking in at the other issues this intriguing mini-series, but wanted to thank you for tipping me off to one of my favorite comic book surprises of the year! Cheers!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for being a constant reader, Max. And thanks for the DC Infinite heads-up, fancy all four issues being available already! I wish we had a book with Ordway art every month, I don’t care what it is, I just want to look at lovely Ordway pages.

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  5. This issue was a lot of fun… and fresh Ordway art is always a pleasure to see. From the looks of it, he really relished the chance to draw nature scenes… he puts his all into them. And boy, did I love seeing all those golden age characters running around, even if a couple of my favorite All-Stars were MIA.

    I think this might be the first mention that Pat was caught in a time vortex for a while. I don’t think it’s come up on the show.

    I liked what Robinson did with the Needle, and was glad he stood by his convictions at the end. I wasn’t surprised — it was the sort of story Robinson writes — but I was certainly pleased.

    Of these Earth Prime books, my favorite has been the Legends of Tomorrow issue, since it really suited the crazy energy of that silly show, while also bringing back some beloved characters (and Hawkman) we haven’t seen for a while.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I think you’ll like the comic — it’s fast-paced, well-drawn, and fun. It *will* spoil one event in Season 6, though.

        IIRC, S6 picked up considerably once Sarah got back to the group. But there’s definitely a strange dislocation about it, as characters were often split from the team for longer than was idea (probably because of covid shooting protocols).

        Liked by 1 person

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