söndag 29 juni 2014

Sage Stossel: Starling

Well, I've been busy.

Work, other stuff, and I've been reading a bunch of comics that have been just filling out shelf space as I didn't quite  have the time and energy to read them when I bought them. (There's a lot of those, I'm sorry to say.) And since I'm currently on "DC: B", ploughing through a big pile of pre-52 Batman TPB's, there hasn't been much that has been interesting enough to want to blog about -- DC killed a lot of the energy inherent in the Batman character when they a) made him way too one-dimensional, b) started having the plots run through all the various bat-titles; the synchronization necessary always seems to take a big toll on the creativity of the writers.

Oh, and c) replaced the "detective" part in "the  world's greatest detective" with "will torture people to get information whenever the writer can't think of actually interesting and not disgusting ways to move the plot forward".


Thanks to the kindness of the people at the excellent Uppsala English Bookshop, I recently got a copy of Sage Stossel's Starling, which tells the story of Amy Sturgess, marketing person and superhero, and which is far more compelling than tired superhero stories trying to replace actual drama and quality storytelling with big "events" like earthquakes etc. So here's Starling:

Amy discovered her powers while a kid in school, and in her teens gets recruited into the government's superhero program. Whenever there's a crime for her to stop, she gets a text message, and has to make up some excuse to leave whatever she's doing to change into her superhero garb and fly to wherever she is needed. To explain her many and sudden disappearances, she has to pretend having an embarrassing medical condition, which does not help her already somewhat awkward social situation.

Anyway, Amy's already somewhat hectic and unpredictable life becomes even more hectic and unpredictable as a quick succession of events occur:
- She gets responsibility for a big contract at the bureau where she works – actually, her boss was supposed to fire her for her unpredictability and absences, but he's completely exhausted from having a newborn baby at home, so he gives her one last chance – she gets to take over the contract he should have been doing;
- Some creep at the company where she works is ripping off her work, and she's not assertive enough to put a stop to it;
- She meets an old college sweetheart who wants to rekindle the romance, which she would like to do as well, but he's engaged to a very nice woman who, it turns out, is very helpful to Amy in her work;
- Her ex-druggie brother turns up at her doorstep, in big trouble.

Watching Amy/Starling juggle all these problems – along with her regular superhero/secret identity troubles and tribulations – is like reading a very well written and charming Spider-Man adventure. Stossel's art style is cartoony, but the writing is, well… I could call it "realistic-ish", I guess. Part of it is actually about "real" problems, like Amy's romantic and work problems, and some is a pretty good take on what problems actual super heroics would entail in the real world. Like I said, a good Spider-Man story, minus some of the melodrama.

Finally, all threads converge. Amy has her big presentation at work (and since her focus group was sabotaged by the guy angling for her work, she's had to make do with asking guards, police officers etc. at various crime scenes what they would like in the finished product) but at the same time has to save her brother and make right a crime he committed without getting him implicated. She also gets shot with an assault rifle (and she is not invulnerable), and since she's running late, the presentation is taken over by the guy looking to steal the contract from her…

This is a funny, intelligent and engaging superhero story, and I'll repeat the word that I think symbolizes it best: charming.

In fact, utterly charming. Warmly recommended.

Here's an interview with Stossel. And here is an excerpt (which I don't think does the story full justice, actually).