I was thinking about the paragraph I would have to write introducing the story and characters and making sense of Koriand’r’s new life in Key West, but to be honest, you don’t really need any introductions from me because Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti have made this issue entirely accessible in a way that doesn’t try to cram too much into too little of a space.
The short of it is: Koriand’r has taken up a civilian life in Florida, she’s got a job at the local rescue aquarium, and she’s (slowly) learning about human social interactions, customs, and language. Her inability to grasp metaphorical language is often captured in chibi-like pictographic dialogue boxes that remind us now and then how absurd language really is. You’ll also meet Sol, her maybe-could-be-new boyfriend with whom she is developing a relationship.
Enter Dick Grayson at precisely the right moment.
For those of you who thought this was going to be full of recriminations like like Dick’s appearance in Batgirl, fear not! Conner and Palmiotti focus on actually telling a story that has substance, and gives us action that’s meaningful (and not just running around on rooftops for no reason at all). Kori and Dick actually work together to thwart some mass destruction and it’s really only in the final panels that they talk about their previous relationship (so when they do, it’s in an appropriate moment and everything feels right about it).
Who Doesn’t Love Dick?
When Dick went undercover with Spyral he vanished out of the lives of all of his family and friends, who accounted him dead. And he was meticulous about keeping away and keeping that cover. But that’s all been blown for a while and now Dick’s leaking his presence outside of the Batfamily. To be clear: he wasn’t trying to in this issue. Though he must have known Kori was in Key West, he was relying on his Hypnos to keep his identity under wraps. Of course Kori can see right through it (she’s not human, after all).
Dick is in pursuit of a bomb key aboard a pleasure boat where Kori and her new boy friend (not yet boyfriend) are having dinner. There’s a lot about this book that’s just a “given”. Like how Kori just blends in (for the most part) even though she’s orange and her hair is on fire. The natives don’t feel any unease around her and everything is sort of business as usual. It’s typical of the world-building Conner and Palmiotti employ in the Harley Quinn series, so if you’re okay with suspending all your disbelief, you’ll enjoy this just fine. If you need a world that looks and behaves like what you see outside your door, I’m not really sure why you read comic books to begin with.
Maybe it’s for the hot guys?
Other Things to Love!
Emanuela Lupacchino is the real hero of this book. She gets an “assist” on pencils this month (whatever that might mean) from Mirco Pierfederici, but her work is always phenomenal. I started reading this book because I have been enjoying Harley Quinn and wanted to see what the Conner/Palmiotti team could do with an actual hero, and have been blown away by how beautiful the book is overall. While the art leans a little cartoony due to the clean lines, lack of heavy inks, and somewhat exaggerated facial expressions, this is in no way a bad thing. In fact, I think the style and tone match perfectly: this is a fun book with fun art and bright colors from Hi-Fi. For people who complain about too much darkness and drudgery in their comics, here’s a book that infuses nice bright energy into its characters and scenarios without sacrificing the heart of what gives characters like Dick and Kori just enough edge. For all her pacification, Kori isn’t afraid to unload if you make her mad and that kind of awesome retribution is very gratifying.
Lupacchino does especially nice things with her world-building: geographically this story is very specific and the look and feel of the periphery, backgrounds, and details have nothing generic about them. Small bits, like the hostess’ cat-eye glasses provide texture without being distracting, and you can read this multiple times and see new things.
Lupacchino also draws beautiful fight sequences. Everyone looks amazing in motion and given that Kori can fly, we always get interesting angles from which to view the action. Dick looks great in this too (though a little too young maybe in some panels) and gets in more than his share of the brawl as Kori resists fisticuffs until it’s absolutely necessary to engage.
She wants to reason, but he’s all high-flying kicks
Full Disclosure: prior to reading this incarnation of Starfire, I didn’t like Koriand’r as a character. I never did. And I don’t like her relationship with Dick (which is part of the reason). With maybe Superman as the sole exception, I don’t typically dig comics about space aliens or energy-type superpowers. It’s just not my thing.
But I’ve been a faithful reader on this book since issue No. 1 because the writing and art is that good. It’s not heavy, but it’s got a lot of heart and again, it’s just a beautiful book to look at. Add Dick Grayson for a couple of issues and that’s just icing on the cake.
Reasons Not to Buy This Book
Who am I kidding?
You love Dick Grayson? You love great art? You love fun comics? This has it all. If I absolutely had to dredge up a criticism, it’s that Dick doesn’t mentally note Kori boarding the boat when he spots his mark on the dock. She’s standing right behind him. Also, there’s a moment when Dick goes after a bottle wine like a drunk just cut loose from the tank after a night of the DTs. Okay, maybe not quite that bad, but it struck me as a weird bit of business.
Even though we spend a considerable number of pages in this issue exploring Kori’s relationship with Sol and Sol’s past, none of that detracts; it actually helps build the inevitable tension between Kori and Dick that we’ll no doubt explore in issue No. 8.
Which reminds me: yes, the story will carry over into next month. Conner and Palmiotti have well-paced this so as not to rush the emotional impact of Dick’s resurrection for Kori. I never thought I would say it, but I’m looking forward to seeing how the two resolve their reunion.
- You’re a fan of Starfire (or not: this book has made me one!)
- You want to see Dick Grayson off on an adventure in Key West!
- You were a fan of the Dick/Kori match-up (or even if you weren’t!)
- A little sunny bright spot away from the dim chill of Gotham sounds like a nice getaway.
Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti have applied the formula that’s catapulted Harley Quinn into stardom to a book about a childlike statuesque orange alien girl in Key West–and the magical result is a comic book that’s got their signature humor and heart without all the squicky things that push Harley to the edge. With Koriand’r we also have a bona fide hero who is treated as neither a spoiled child, a tawdry sexbomb, nor a token feminist. Why can’t all comics be this even-handed? Come see what the book is like to see the return of Dick Grayson. You might stick around long after just to enjoy more of Kori.