Rising Stars 2
Review by Mike Helba
With issue 2, the apparent main plot of Rising Stars begins to take shape. Issue #0 and issue 1 provided introductions to the story, and the preview issue covered the character of Pyre. Now, we finally get a glimpse at what lies in store for us in the coming months.
The main plot is the investigation of a string of murders. The victims are all Specials, members of a group of 113 people who were born with extraordinary powers due to the impact of a mysterious comet-like phenomenon near Pederson, Illinois in 1969.
I call these murders the "apparent" main plot because with J. Michael Straczynski you can never know for sure. Anyone who watched the early first season of Babylon 5 saw little warning of the Shadow War although some clues were present. Whether or not the murders will consume all 24 issues remains to be seen.
This issue answers the question: "How do you kill an invulnerable man?" The victim of the second murder is Peter Dawson. Through a police interview of Dr. William Welles we learn about Peter Dawson's life. As Straczynski promised when he first announced Rising Stars, we learn that superpowers may not be the blessing we at first assume them to be. They may in fact be a curse. Peter Dawson certainly seems cursed. It is ironic that the power to feel no pain causes so much pain to him.
As with all preceding issues, a portion of the story is told as a series of narrated flashbacks. While this large amount of exposition is necessary early in the story, hopefully it will be replaced with more action as the series progresses. To his credit, artist Keu Cha uses these flashbacks to express Dawson's character to us through art. By the end of the issue, we understand how Dawson feels about his life even though he utters only one line of dialog - and that is merely a scripted line in a commercial.
It is apparent that John Simon, a.k.a. Poet, is the main character of Rising Stars. Not only does he narrate issues #0 and 1, but he appears in issue 2 to take on the mission of tracking down the murderer. We also learn that the difference between himself and the other specials that he mentioned in issue 1 may be more than just a personality difference. Simon has a power that only he and Dr. Welles know about.
From this point the story continues with several pages of Poet's journal. This is a detective-style essay in which Poet reviews the facts of the case and presents his hypotheses. We learn more about how the Specials behaved when they were children. We also learn about the terrible fate of Willie Smith that has been hinted at before.
It is refreshing to finally get into the meat of the Rising Stars story. For readers who began with issue 1, this may not have seemed like a long wait. However, for those who read the earlier books, issue 1 repeated much of issue #0 and the preview issue was more of a standalone story. Issue 2 sets the stage for the mystery to unfold in future installments.
As a bonus, the final page has a NexusCorp advertisement for their corporate hero, Flagg. This shows how much Jason Miller has sold out. They are even advertising action figures and children's clothing! It looks like Straczynski will have a lot of fun with the satirical qualities of this character. The name "Flagg" is covered with a banner that reads "See our new name soon!" This is a hint at a situation where art imitates life. When Straczynski began writing Rising Stars he did not know that Howard Chaykin holds the rights to the name "Flagg". Straczynski decided to incorporate the situation into the story, and we will see more about this in issue 3.
The synopsis provides a detailed summary of Issue 2. It contains spoilers.