Review: Stone Star #1

Full disclosure: I’m a fan of Jim Zub’s work. I’m a longtime D&D nerd so I was initially drawn to his work like Skullkickers from that perspective, immediately identifying a fellow dice-chucker in this writer. After that, I have been incredibly pleased to follow his career into other comics as well – as a side note, if you are a fan of Marvel superheroes do yourself a favor and check out his two series with Mark Waid and Al Ewing – Avengers: No Surrender and No Road Home .

Like other creatives whose work I enjoy, I support him on Patreon. To my great delight I discovered even more value on Patreon because he is a great friend to wannabe comic creators like myself. He shares, quite generously, how he does everything, from character to story to panel breakdowns – you name it, he provides insights.

Not long ago his backers got a small taste of his process when he shared a pitch document with us. Aside from being immensely helpful for my own pitching, the pitch document left me eager to see more of the actual story – so I strapped in for the inevitable wait. Then, surprisingly, the comic came out via Comixology Originals not long after. All of the promise and potential of that pitch document has been delivered in Stone Star #1 (the first of five issues).

In short, the premise is that a massive starship (Stone Star) traverses the galaxy as a center for entertainment wherever it docks. A sort of galactic traveling circus, the vessel is wonderfully rendered by artist Max Dunbar – on first appearance, it is apparent that this vessel would be perfectly at home landing on the outskirts of Mos Eisley or pulled up next to the Serenity. We learn that its form of entertainment is gladiator combat.

In the grimy shadows of Stone Star we meet our hero, Dail, a mischievous kid with a gift (curse?) when it comes to machines, and he matches up with retired gladiator Volness Vildari. I can’t delve too much deeper into the plot past the premise without spoiling, so I’ll do my best to outline some of the outstanding parts.

For one, Zub sketches out a very intriguing world among the arena; the social and cultural place of the gladiators is ripe for future story development; We meet one character with a very cool fighting style who would be at home on an arcade fighting game or a gritty Sci-fi battleground.

Dail’s life is sidetracked by a new opportunity, but also by his (and our) introduction to the sociopolitical reality of Stone Star’s world. In this first issue young character is tossed into the fire, exposed to his chance: be a hero, or be a bystander. The details themselves make for a compelling story, and most critically for a first issue, leaves the reader desiring the next issue.

The art is perfect at giving us the look at the kind of dirty galaxy and used future that Stone Star operates in, with Dunbar’s background work making a perfect palette for a roguish sci-fi hero. The character designs are truly top notch; Dail has a youthful, wide-eyed look that immediately earns your sympathy and care, while the alien Volness looks like nothing so much as a walking scowl – the kind of hard-bitten, narrow-eyed tough guy that reminds me of an alien Man With No Name-era Clint Eastwood. The gladiator Bodrid fights with unusual weapons and an interesting style, all behind the leering grin of someone willing to kill for a living.

The colors by Espen Grundetjern emphasize the art – the rich colors of the planet, the grubby earth tones of Stone Star, and one especially beautiful piece from page 17 that frames a poignant personal moment with the near-pastels of a sunset.

Taken altogether, this is a fast-paced sci-fi adventure that quickly introduces a whole host of interesting characters and situations, drawing on the best sci-fi traditions to create a familiar but intriguing world for an adventure.

Stone Star #1 is available on comixology through their exclusive Comixology Originals.