What would happen if Flash Gordon got old? That is the premise that Mark Millar works off of in his latest series and it is some of his strongest work to date, mainly for the simple fact that it is so lighthearted compared to most of his other series. Obviously, Millar could not use the King Syndicate Feature hero and so he just went ahead and made himself an analogue, like every other comic creator does and while things are obviously different, things are also obviously the same. Yet, despite all those differences and despite the sameness, Duke McQueen and his more than likely last adventure, is an incredible amount of fun to be had.
The book finds our hero, Duke McQueen, in his golden years, retired and most recently, grieving the loss of his wife. Duke and his wife had a full and rich life together, but he has no idea what to do next, especially that she is no longer around. His kids are absent and have no respect for him, having formed a certain opinion about him due to his wild stories of space adventures on a faraway planet as they were growing up. His wife always believed him, but the rest of the planet just thinks it was all some elaborate hoax when he disappeared and returned all those many years ago. But now, as luck or fate or some random turn of events would have it, Duke gets a second chance at it all and there is nothing as good as the feeling of being needed.
The best thing that Millar and artist Goran Parlov do is keep the tone light and humourous, just like all of the best Flash Gordon tales. There are more than enough grim and gritty books out today and not enough comics just telling fun, airy stories that you can enjoy with a smile on your face. Starlight does exactly that and while the collection holds six issues, they breeze right by with the greatest of ease as they are so exciting and entertaining. Our hero though he might just be a clone of another, is a most interesting character and the farther we get into the story, the more you like and empathize with the man and his situation. So it is that as he tries to battle back against an empire, almost all by himself, bones and joints creaking and nothing working like it used to work and you find yourself rooting for the man and loving every minute of it. The adage ‘you are only as young as you feel’ comes into play here, for even though his body might have gotten old on him, Duke McQueen still feels like he can conquer the universe.
It is not just the story that makes the book as fun as it is but the artwork by Goran Parlov as well. He has always had a simpler style than most and here it really works to the book’s advantage as it gives it a bit of a retro feel, perfect for a great science-fiction adventure story like this one. There is a lot of action and Parlov handles it with a flare as great as any and many times where there is not, and working in unison with Millar, he sells the book and the various situations so well, that if the book had been wordless, Parlov’s art alone would be worth the price of admission.
You can call Duke McQueen a Flash Gordon copy, and yes perhaps he is, but as long as Mark Millar and Goran Parlov tell a good story, which they do, it should not really matter one iota. Millar and his Millarworld line have been doing a great job as of late with his various books and Starlight stands out as one of his best.