If my spirits sagged just a little with the contents of the fifth Starman Omnibus, it wasn't for long, because I knew that the sixth and final collection would be one to remember. Good heavens, did this series ever go out on a high note. I really admire the way that James Robinson constructed the epic "Grand Guignol" storyline, with its team of trapped heroes struggling against impossible odds and a city of villains. I like the way that he uses alternating chapters to first advance the story and then step back and show how the situation got to this point, elegantly and effectively dotting all the Is and crossing all the Ts across some 2500 pages of the adventure up to that point. It really is a damn fine bit of writing.
One of my happiest memories of reading comics came with the climactic episode of that story. I had moved from Athens back to the Atlanta area and returned to town to collect my monthly books and visit my pal Dave Prosser, who now lives in Idaho. He, also buying Starman every month, hadn't found time to read the issue. Damned if I was going to wait until I returned home the next day to find out how this epic was going to wrap up, so while he fed and played with his menagerie of pets after a day's work, I curled up in a recliner to read it, and found cause to exclaim aloud three times as it unfolded. "Shut up! Don't spoil anything!" he would bellow back. I'm still not able to read one character's wildly unexpected, out of the blue demise without my eyes popping out of my head.
And as good as it is, I'm not sure that the last adventure, a three-parter set in 1951, isn't even better. There's a painfully mawkish episode of sentimentality to get through before it, but it's really worth it. There's an elegant grace to the way Robinson and artist Peter Snejbjerg finish up the saga and answer the series' final mystery. It's got another moment that retains its power to punch readers in the gut. You'll know it when you read it: when a character lets Jack know that he can hear music, a lump comes right up in my throat every stinking time. It's just excellent.
DC has really done this series right. The $50 price point for each of the six books has often been tough to swallow as my belt has had to be tightened, but the editor behind this series can definitely take a bow, because this is easily one of the best reprint jobs that the company has ever done. It compiles everything that Robinson wrote for the series, in proper order, with nothing skipped. The uniform design, the supplementary material, the commentary by Robinson, everything just shines with love and sincerity and the very rare case of this company putting somebody in charge who is determined to see it done well, and done right. When Grant Morrison finally ends his run on Batman, I want editor Anton Kawaski to be in charge of putting all that into an equally sensible run of books. That way, I'll finally read the dang thing.
Starman was one of the two or three best American comics of the 1990s, and its reproduction here is faultless. Loudly recommended.