Great Issue: ‘Starman #51’

So, I’m reading through James Robinson’s Starman series, and you’ll likely hear more about that as a whole in the future. But this morning, while knee deep in the seventh volume, I read a specific issue, and it just made me a happy comic book reader. It was just a one-shot issue in the middle of the trade paperback, and really shouldn’t have been that special, but it was just one of those moments where all the little pieces came together, and things were right in the world.

There are sometimes those great issues you remember. It’s usually a one shot, and you might not remember the issue number, or even anything specific as time goes one, but you know it was there, and made an impact on you. Other great examples that come to mind immediately are Action Comics #775 (otherwise known as the greatest single issue Joe Kelly ever wrote, and the best Superman comic book in the last 10-20 years), and Superman/Batman #26, which was great for other reasons. Also, as you’ll see, maybe Superman plays an odd role in my judgement of these stories, because Starman #51 concerns him.

Well, actually, it’s his father.

“Midnight in the House of El” is a one shot story, where Jack Knight, the Starman who exists with the sole purpose of deconstructing superhero tropes meets with a young version of Superman’s father, Jor-El, sixteen years before the destruction of Krypton.

Great premise, right?

Me, I like the Earth. I don’t read superhero comics to see them go into space, so when Jack Knight blasts off, and I know I’m in for two whole trades of space adventure, my inner meter didn’t read “excited.” But they got me that way anyway. They got me because the stories fit, and make sense, and the character is explored by doing that. Jack Knight is about being grounded in reality, which is why I liked this book. So, he gets shot off into space, and I think I’m not going to like this part, when, because it’s well done, I like it just as much as I did before.

The whole series seems to be about what it is to be a hero, and the legacy that goes along with that. It’s not about capes, and tights, and arch-enemies, or any of that. It’s about having courage to do the right thing at great sacrifice. That’s really hard to do, and those who do, are heroes.

So, Jack Knight lands on Krypton, and meets Jor-El, who is an iconoclast on a world of conformists. There was a huge set up, and a big leap taken by writer Robinson by coming up with a story that plants his Starman right in the middle of the Superman story. The story sets up why Jor-El would have a ship capable of going into space, why he would know about Earth, and why he chose Earth when he ultimately sent his son there. Basically, Jack Knight is responsible for Superman coming to Earth, and perhaps implicating that the Shade, a former villain (who might be the best character in the whole Starman series, is really the one behind it. And it all fits perfectly. It’s really some great work.

This was just one great issue, and the series didn’t need it. Overall, it doesn’t change the main storyline. It doesn’t really affect Superman to this day, but it’s something that’s just neat and innovative, and fun.

I tend to not remember specific issues as time goes on, but I know a lot of people do. Are there any other single issues that just made you think, “Wow, these people are just on their game right now!” and you always think of it as a great book?


  1. Great issue. What makes it so great IMO, is the fact it’s smack dab in the middle of the weakest part of the run. Don’t get me wrong… I like Jack In Space, but I much prefer the comings and goings in Opal much more.

    I can’t wait until the HC’s of these start coming out next year.

  2. the last truly memorable one-shot i’ve read was detective 826, where robin was picked up and held hostage in an suv by the joker.

    that issue was so surprising, so tense, and so dramatic. it was utterly fantastic.

    i think the surprise factor is part of what makes these one-shots memorable. you expect the finale of a big storyline to be good. but a random one-shot could be anything…and more often than not, it isn’t terribly special. thus, the ones that are really stand out in my mind.

  3. That Detective issue was a good one. I forgot about it.

  4. I started picking up the trades but now they are out of print (I have volumes 1, 2 and 4). Tony Harris is a liar.
    However, they are reprinting the whole series in big old hardbacks that I won’t be able to afford. Suggestions?

  5. I just bought 6-10 on Amazon last month.

    There are going to be 6 hardcovers covering the whole series. Overall, it probably won’t be any more expensive than the trades. Maybe a little…

    You could do some internet research, ebay, check with some other retailers.

    Dunno, might just be a sucky situation.

  6. The HC volumes are going to be $33/ea. Hardly breaking the bank.

    I believe only volumes 3 & 4 are OOP in the states. You can still get them at for list.

  7. This book was MY series in the 90’s. One of my all-time favorites. Glad to see it getting some love, and I’m stoked for the new hardbacks. I’m definitely gonna get those.

  8. As Josh says in his writeup that he wasn’t initially excited with Jack going to space, in which I’m in total agreement, these issues do have some upside besides this 1-shot. I absolutely love HoloDad. We also see Mikaal’s character take form… And I found the Adam Strange stories pretty solid as well, so there is much to be said for these 2-3 volumes.

    Nothing like trades 9 & 10 though!

  9. has volumes 1 and 2 and 6-10. Just thought I’d help y’all out.

  10. I have a hard time differentiating issue when I’m reading a trade. I can’t help but see the big picture for some reason.

  11. I love this series, and have issues 1-50…so, I just missed this mark. I had no idea that that were re-releasing this in hardcover format. The fanboy in me officially pooed his pants.

    The most recent thing I can recall is Punisher War Journal #4, which was part of the new series by Matt Fraction. It was done by Dedato and it was a lot of fun. It featured villains in a bar after a funeral, and Spider-Man shows up and the ending is a surprise. When I sold off my issues, I actually kept this one. I liked it that much.

    I’m sure there’s more, but work beckons. I’ll have to ponder this on the ride home.

  12. I have a hard time differentiating issue when I’m reading a trade. I can’t help but see the big picture for some reason.

    Well, it’s one story in there, so it was kind of hard to miss. There were several different space adventures in the volume. This whole thing works very well in trade, but I think it was written with issues in mind, because trades weren’t a given when this was conceived.

  13. I started reading Starman noty terribly long ago. I read the first three TPB’s and DC stopped printing them. Now I can’t find them anymore. I liked it up until that point.

  14. The four issue story arc that features the last “real” appearance of Wesley Dodds, The Sandman, as an old man in his last adventure with Jack Knight, holds an extra special place in my heart. I really enjoyed how his long time live-in girlfriend Diane was portrayed, as being her own woman, an absolutely equal partner to Wesley and Jack’s adoration of her (more than Wesley) for her own acomplishments was just top notch stuff. Those pages may deserve an award for “most beautiful portrayal of a woman over 60.” Wesley himself, who gains Jack’s admiration, was also a wonderful character – portrayed as very old, yet heroic, and not just some “old eccentric character.”

    The old hero coming out Golden Age retirement into the present day as a much older man is a pretty common theme in many stories, but this portrayal, to me anyway, is the real thing. And the way they portray Wesley’s relationship with the other old retired hero, Jack’s father, is priceless – funny, honest, and endearing all at the same time. Suffice to say, not all the heroes in the club house were as buddy buddy as we have been made to think…

    This volume (A Wicked Inclination) is super pricey when purchased as a back issue, as was mentioned of the other volumes, mostly due to irregular reprinting. This volume in particular is priced mighty high.

    I would strongly suggest doing regular searches of all the various Amazons (UK, US, Canada, etc.) until you find a good price. It was $80.00 everywhere I looked about one year ago, then I checked Amazon UK and found it for the original cover price. If you still can’t find a good price right away, keep at it, and a reasonably priced one will probably pop up somewhere soon enough, probably outside the U.S.

    I got mine at original cover price, without much time spent, so don’t give in too soon!

  15. He’s not kidding. That’s my favorite arc so far.

  16. Oh yeah, I totally spaced on that arc. It’s really, really kick ass.

  17. you’re my new best friend, Josh.


  18. I have my eye on Vol. 3 on ebay. Will potentially bid in the morning.

  19. Only read the first trade of Starman, but it’s been on my list for a looooong time.

    Impulse #81, if we’re talking about single issues that mattered to us. Not many people read/cared about this book, but it (along with the immortal Young Justice) showed me that comics didn’t have to be heavy-handed crises all the time.

    The issue is just Wally chasing Bart around the world after making a decision about where Bart would live. Bart’s hurt, because Wally doesn’t recognize that Bart’s matured at all, and this to me was a comment on the character as a whole. Quietly, in his own book, Bart Allen had been developing as a character. Still impulsive, still impatient, but he had slowly developed into a caring, intelligent hero who always put others first. Over the course of this issue, as Wally’s internal dialog flusters at trying to reason with Bart, Wally recognizes the person that Bart’s on the path to becoming, and he likes him.

    I had a problem when Johns regressed Bart at the beginning of his Titans relaunch, shouldering him with a tragedy to force him down the path to being a hero. He was already on his way, and this issue demonstrates that perfectly.

    Yeah… I like Impulse.

  20. I know some didn’t like this, but Amaizing Spiderman 536 (the 9/11 isuue was pretty decent i thought.

    Oh and um, although it probably will be continued at some pont the Dini Dectective Issue with Zatanna was the shit.

  21. I went out and bought Superman/Batman #26 yesterday after reading what Josh wrote. My girlfriend and I read the end together (the part about Jeph Loeb’s son, Sam), and were moved to tears. The goofy banter between Superboy and Robin in the story proper was even pretty entertaining.

    To me, this kind of honesty in comics writing comes far too infrequently. The issue was amazing.

  22. For amazing work doing single issue one-shots issue after issue that rarely if ever disappoint, Jeff Parker on X-Men: First Class is incredible. In 14 issues, There have only been (I think) two stories that were two issues long. I have a really hard time getting into the “one and done” story format in either comics or TV, but I now I really look forward to every new one-shot of this series.

    It’s even more incredible when you consider:
    1) He’s juggling 6 characters in a team book, and at least 4-5 appear together in at least one panel on one page, yet none of the characters seem without a distinctive personality
    2) It’s an all ages books, so foul language, nudity, or bloody violence can NOT be used for shock value to hold the reader’s attention.

    And it’s really funny. I tend to associate one-shot stories with “crank it out” hack work (my bad assumption), but Parker, with LOTS and LOTS of help from the artist Roger Cruz really prove that wrong. I feel like I am fairly good at deconstructing how a writer achieves this or that affect, but for the life of me, I am completely baffled how Parker and Cruz do their wonderful one-shot stories so well, time after time, month after month…

    one shot good stuff. I’m so hooked into the series as a whole, I didn’t even think to include this on this thread as an example of one shot wonderment, but really, Parker and Cruz are demonstrating how to do it well.