Review: Star*Reach #1

Star*Reach #1 cover
Cover by Howard Chaykin

Star*Reach #1
Published by Star*Reach and © the respective creators below, April 1974

Title: “… the Birth of Death!”
Synopsis: An old man shares a bedtime story with an ailing young boy – a story about the origin of Death!

Writer: Jim Starlin
Artist: Starlin

Review: Editor Mike Friedrich kicks off the first issue of his legendary “ground-level” series with a short story by already-hot-in-the-mainstream creator Jim Starlin. Given new artistic freedom, the writer/artist responds with … a cosmic story about Death! OK, no shock there, but the art is absolutely stunning.


Title: “Death Building”
Synopsis: An elevator and an acid trip lead a young man to a cosmic showdown with Death. 

Writer: Jim Starlin
Artist: Starlin

Review: More Jim Starlin, more beautifully drawn, cosmic comics featuring Death. This one adds drugs, topless women … and Starlin himself!


Title: “Fish Myths” and “Suburban Fish”
Synopsis: In this pair of seemingly semi-autobiographical stories, a fish struggles with college, marriage and American values.

Writer: Steve Skeates
Artist: Skeates

Review: Steve Skeates’ odd fish tales have more in common with underground comix than with the fantasy-inspired material in this issue. 


Title: “A Tale of Sword & Sorcery”
Synopsis: A generic barbarian hero and a generic old wizard emerge from the chaos to do battle.

Writer: Ed Hicks
Artist: Walter Simonson

Review: This slight story plays with fantasy genre tropes, with loose art by Walter Simonson the only thing making it notable.


Title: “Cody Starbuck”
Synopsis: In the wake of war and crumbling empires, space swashbuckler Cody Starbuck encounters beautiful women – and treachery!

Writer: Howard Chaykin
Artist: Chaykin

Review: Howard Chaykin’s sex-fueled space adventure is the most accomplished piece of storytelling in this issue. This one’s thick with potential.


Title: “The Origin of God!”
Synopsis: And on the first day, there was nothingness. And then some more nothingness. And then …

Writer: Jim Starlin
Artist: Starlin

Review: This one-pager would be stronger if something similar to its last panel hadn’t already been used in the first story.

Grade (for the entire issue): A-

Second opinion: “Groundbreaking anthology title that attempted to create a middle ground between the extreme excesses of the underground and the superhero-obsessed dullness of Marvel and DC in the mid-1970s.” – The Slings & Arrows Comic Guide (second edition), 2003

Cool factor: Top Bronze Age creators are set free to tell the stories they want to tell, with concepts and characters they own.
Not-so-cool factor: With the exception of “Cody Starbuck,” the stories fall short of the art in this first outing.

Star*Reach #1 (third printing) cover
Second and subsequent printings of Star*Reach #1 featured a cover by Jim Starlin. This particular version is from the third printing.

Notable: The Star*Reach logo was designed by longtime X-Men letterer Tom Orzechowski.
Collector’s note: The first printing features a “Cody Starbuck” cover by Howard Chaykin and a Death-with-naked-green-women back cover by Jim Starlin. These covers were reversed for subsequent printings.

Character quotable: “… Tell Lord Gideon Miss Breedlove is safe, and in the best of … What? … No, I can’t speak to him myself … no … she’s sleeping … .” – Cody Starbuck, busy receiving what would become a Chaykin signature in the years ahead
A word from the publisher: “If (the artists and writers) make their work good enough to please even half the numbers of people they sell to in their straight work, they come out financially ahead. And their concepts, characters and artwork remain theirs … and so they work that much harder to make them better.” – Mike Friedrich, explaining the Star*Reach approach to comics, from the introduction to this issue

Editor’s note: This review was originally published by Comics Bronze Age on July 9, 2009.

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