|SENSATIONAL, you say?|
Darkstars #1 (Oct. 1992, cover by Travis Charest, Larry Stroman, and Scott Hanna)
The problem with this is that it's never really clear what makes Darkstars distinct from Green Lantern. They're both about lone members of big space organizations working on Earth. The Darkstar of Darkstars is Ferrin Colos, recently off a failure to save the planet of Genuwyne, which he angsts over occasionally; he sets up in Dallas, Texas when he finds out that the alien Syndicate he's been pursuing has set up on operation there on Earth. Darkstars is a little distinguished from Green Lantern in that Darkstars deputize locals with their own exo-mantles: in Colos's case, John Flint, a local cop with an "attitude" problem, and Mo Douglas, a homeless man.
|This cover shows off both the original main characters (Colos, Mo, Carla, Flint) and the weird faces.|
Darkstars #7 (Apr. 1993, cover by Travis Charest)
Phase I: Ferrin Colos on Earth (Issues #1-22)
Darkstars divides neatly into two distinct phases. The first concerns Colos and his two human deputies on Earth. At first these are Flint and Mo, as I said above; later, Colos fires Flint because he's reckless and replaces him with Carla White, a black lawyer who quit her job because she realized she was defending the wrong people. (Flint is later kidnapped by aliens and mutated into a killing machine.) This part of the comic is pretty fun, if you put aside the hints of "attitude," it's mostly a light-hearted superhero adventure comic. The best issue is clearly #8, "My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys!", where Carla takes Colos to a local dive bar for fun, and Colos ends up arguing with locals, riding the mechanical bull, and fighting an alien bounty hunter. I don't know if this is what Friedman was aiming for, but it felt like the platonic ideal of the comic to me.
|The cover is sort of amazingly terrible, whereas the story is terribly amazing.|
Darkstars #8 (May 1993, cover by Travis Charest)
The extent to which they're minimized as characters is perhaps most driven home in Trinity, an eight-part crossover with L.E.G.I.O.N. and Green Lantern (issues #11-12 of Darkstars) where the two of them just stand around and nothing at all is done with them being humans on an alien planet for the first time. They both have interesting backstories that rarely are dealt with: like, what was the effect of homelessness and then the lack thereof on Mo? Who knows. I also really liked Annie, the non-superhero who they hire to be their secretary. She never had enough to do, but was always fun when she was there with her matter-of-fact attitude toward the odd job she'd been hired for.
|What the hell is this?|
Darkstars #11 (Aug. 1993, cover by Travis Charest)
- #1-3: Larry Stroman and Scott Hanna (3 issues)
- #4-7: Travis Charest and Scott Hanna (4 issues)
- #8-9: Patrick Zircher and John Lowe (2 issues)
- #11-12 & 14: Mitch Byrd and Ken Branch (3 issues)
- #15 & 17: Christopher Taylor and Ken Branch (2 issues)
- #19-38 & 0: Michael Collins and Ken Branch (21 issues)
|I like this cover artist in a general sense, but he felt like a tonal mismatch for Darkstars.|
Darkstars #18 (Mar. 1994, cover by Randy DuBurke)
Phase II: Donna Troy in Space (Issues #23-24, 0, 25-38)
Then, suddenly everything changes. I don't know if Darkstars was in a steep sales decline (figures on The Comics Chronicles begin with issue #29, alas), but Colos is implicated (unjustly) in a conspiracy and suddenly ends up exiled to another universe. Just as suddenly, Donna Troy (formerly Wonder Girl and then Troia of the Teen Titans/New Teen Titans/New Titans, but now powerless) is recruited as the new Darkstar of Earth, and John Stewart (formerly a Green Lantern, but since the cancellation of Green Lantern: Mosaic and the destruction of the Green Lantern Corps in Emerald Twilight, without a book or purpose) is recruited as the new head of NEMO by the Controllers.
|I also looked for a John Stewart cover, but apparently the guy never got one, despite essentially being co-lead with Donna.|
Darkstars #23 (Aug. 1994, cover by Mike Deodata, Jr.)
|So much crossover!|
Darkstars #34 (Sept. 1995, cover by Michael Collins and Ken Branch)
|Interestingly, interior artist Michael Collins would later homage this cover with his cover for Star Trek: Early Voyages #12|
Darkstars #29 (Mar. 1995, cover by Mike Deodata, Jr.)
|data courtesy The Comics Chronicles|
The one bright spot in this era is the consistent artwork of Michael Collins. Collins has a bold, traditional superhero style that really suits Friedman's writing; I know Collins's later work on titles like Star Trek: Early Voyages and a huge number of stories for Doctor Who Magazine, so I was pleased to see him here.
|I really like the visual callback to the cover of issue #1, with the background now including all of the series's significant guest stars.|
Darkstars #38 (Jan. 1996, cover by Michael Collins and Ken Branch)
Donna Troy and John Stewart are still Darkstars when the series ends, and they pop up occasionally in that capacity for a little bit, until a two-part story in Green Lantern (vol. 3) #74-75, where Kyle Rayner fights the illegitimate son of Darkseid. Basically the Darkstars turn up to be gunned down to prove the situation is serious. When the story begins, all but a dozen are already dead, and all but four are dead by the end of the series. Given Mo Douglas was still a Darkstar in Darkstars #38 but doesn't appear here, that means one of our main characters got killed offscreen without even a mention. Some of the surviving Darkstars, which include Colos, do put in occasional appearances in other DC space stories, but Carla White is never seen again, apparently, so who knows what happened to her.
|Um, none of these characters, actually.|
Green Lantern (vol. 3) #74 (June 1996, cover by Darryl Banks and Romeo Tanghal)
Poor Darkstars. You could have been something great.