The earth doesn’t shatter during the fifth entry to Chip Zdarsky and Kris Anka’s ‘Earth-Lord’ arc. Nonetheless, Star-Lord keeps on rocking in the post-community service world. There’s rollicking action, a tight little caper, a couple of laughs and a whole lot of heart. What more do you need…
I guess if you do need more, read on below (but be forewarned, there be minor spoilers ahead).
Written by Chip Zdarsky
Illustrated by Kris Anka
Colored by Matthew Wilson
Lettered by VC’s Cory Petit
Still stuck on Earth, Peter Quill was warned to stay out of trouble.
But Star-Lord’s gonna have to get into trouble if he wants to save a friend.
“Star-Lord” #5 seems to exist in that dodgy little corner of the Marvel universe where everybody knows your name and they’re always glad you came. The bar serving as the central hub for this series is a dive where Nick Spencer and Steve Liebers’ “Superior Foes” easily could have knocked back a couple (dozen) cold ones. While Anka’s polished sheen hews much closer to super-heroic grandeur than that other series’ gritty, realist edge, it wouldn’t surprise me at all to learn Zdarsky invited Shocker to this party as a bit of connective tissue.
That being said, under Zdarsky’s authorship the Spider-Man D-lister is given a little more agency. He just wants a quiet place to drown his troubles. And as the Black Cat’s machinations come to light, threatening both the sanctity of the bar itself and the lives of Peter Quill and his friends, we see that nothing comes between that man and his watering hole. It’s the same way the series has shown that nothing comes between Quill and doing what’s right, and that includes having his starship blown up.
So, in a skilled bit of characterization, Zdarsky shines a light on the heart in a “Star-Lord” rogue as being an equal counterweight to the rogue in Star-Lord’s heart – see how incredulous he is that Edmund hasn’t used his special boots and gloves in decades. Zdarsky is a skilled enough writer to convey this all while effortlessly cinching together plot threads from the past four issues.
A great deal of the heart in “Star-Lord” #5, though, comes through in Anka’s artwork. His clean lines make for clearly telegraphed action sequences and powerful emotion across all his faces. Granted, the bombast of his style doesn’t lend itself to subtlety particularly well. But in one poignant panel, Anka snatches a close-up glimpse of Quill’s reaction to a grievously injured colleague: eyebrows slightly arched, forehead slightly wrinkled, his mouth stupefied, and his eyes welling small tears in the corners.
It’s a heartbreaking turn. But otherwise, “Star-Lord” #5 is a hell of a lot of fun.
As forewarned, here be spoilers: There’s a spirited cameo from Old Man Logan. He’s called in to watch Javelyn’s back, while Quill and Edmund are heisting away. And as soon as punches get thrown around at the bar, he gets down to what he does best. And Zdarsky and Anka make sure that what he does he does good.
Anka even offers up sly inversions of the male gaze in “Star-Lord” #5. At the first chance someone has to grab onto Logan’s shirt, it’s torn to ribbons. And pretty soon, the shirtless Logan is presented as hairy-chested cheesecake and left to flirt with the much more sensibly dressed Javelyn. There’s even a similar moment in the closing melee, where Black Cat claws a large section of cloth from Daredevil’s torso. The man without fear is transformed to a man without cover as he’s drawn with conspicuously exposed, and hirsute, pecs the rest of the way. It’s subtly subversive of the female-costume-torn-to-strategically-placed-shreds trope. Especially, when you consider that Anka’s design for both Black Cat and Abigail Brand, while admittedly clad in skin-tight bodysuits, keeps them clothed well up to the neckline.
That initial fight, however, features some fantastic interplay between the writer and artist. Mid-stab, Zdarsky has Javelyn throw a flirtatious, “That Peter’s a nice boy. I usually don’t like nice boys,” Logan’s way. Anka responds with a tight-cropped panel of his eyes doing their best how-you-doin’ placed overtop of the action and tossed back in her direction. It’s a great beat in a lively sequence.Continued below
And never one to shy away from clever wordplay, Zdarsky nails an awesome bit as Logan downplays his role in “Star-Lord” #5 to that of a “Weapon X machina.” It’s some classic mid-battle banter that swashbuckles side-by-side with the energy of Anka’s pacing. Most of the issue is composed of rectangular paneling on a three-tier grid, but when fists, claws, and other assorted blades start flying, the panels tilt slightly to the diagonal. It’s subtle, yet quite effective in injecting an adrenaline boost to the fight scenes.
While the character work is filled with exuberant jump, Anka’s backgrounds are too often either non-descript or non-existent. In many spots, he just leaves it to Matthew Wilson to provide vibrant tones onto which he can place his action. It’s not really a knock on the art, but it stands out a bit compared against how well things are handled in the fore. Daredevil is also underused this issue. Again, it doesn’t derail things. But Zdarsky has a knack for nailing character beats in minimal exposure time – see Shocker or Logan – so it’s a mite disappointing that Daredevil does little more than pop out of the shadows to punch and kick.
Overall, “Star-Lord” #5 proves how event fallout can lead to eventful little runs. Zdarsky and Anka are obviously having a blast mixing street level grime with more soaring heroics. It’s infectious. It’s fun. And while it’s obviously building to a heartfelt conclusion, there’s a part of me that wishes Quill could stay grounded for good.
Final Verdict: 8.0 – Actually, no. I’m really wishing this series acts as a soft-launch for “Guardians of Galaxy,” which follows the (mis)adventures of Star-Lord, Daredevil, Shocker, Black Cat, Old Man Logan and Abigail Brand as bouncers for a space-disco called Galaxy. Make mine Marvel… please.