Stellar Trade Paperback
Writer: Joseph Keatinge
Illustrator: Bret Blevins
Letterer: Rus Wooton
Publisher: Image Comics
Review by Stacy Dooks
This review is going to be tough. There are things about Stellar I want to talk about, that I want to express to better sort out my feelings for the work and why I’m not entirely certain I liked what I read. But if I do that, then I run the risk of spoiling the book for a prospective reader, and that’s something I very much wish to avoid. Taste in everything is subjective, and what doesn’t work for me may very well work for you, so let me talk about the book in the most general terms I can manage, and we’ll see if I can’t walk through my feelings on why Stellar didn’t quite stick the landing for me.
Set on a post-apocalyptic alien world in the far future, a woman struggles to eke out a living as a bounty hunter, bringing in criminals with a rather exotic skill set. As the story progresses we learn more and more about the background of the mysterious woman called Stellar and her place in the fallen world that was once a paradise, and just how her past ties in to the fate of the universe. Or perhaps it would be better to say the fate of this universe. It turns out there are others. . .
Let me lead off with the things I liked off the bat: the art by Bret Blevins is gorgeous, with a mix of influences that range from superheroes to retro Sci-Fi and Horror that really evoke the world and bring it to life. Keatinge’s characterization works for Stellar herself, making her at points heroic, tragic, and tired, and Rus Wooton’s letters ensure the dialogue is distinctive and each character has their own voice. The core of the premise is an intriguing one: involving a mix of genres like space opera, military science fiction, superhero comics, and parallel dimension stories. There’s a lot to find engaging and interesting in Stellar.
This brings me to the things I didn’t like about Stellar, which lies in the story’s execution. The exposition dumps can get to be a little much at times, and the overall arc of the parallel universes, how the protagonist and the antagonist are somehow linked and how they seem caught in an endless cycle of alternate earths and endless conflict, just fell flat by the ending, which is left a bit too ambiguous for my liking. For all her badassery, there’s not a lot of actual character to our eponymous protagonist, and with parallel universes and instant retcons available with a mere step through a portal, I struggle to find a reason to care one way or another about the ending. This might be the point, really: the endless cycle of good vs. evil in one fictional world or another is ultimately meaningless in the grand scale of things where one fate of the universe story sits next to another on the shelf of your local comics store.
The Verdict: Check it out.
As I said, earlier taste is subjective and what doesn’t work for me may very well work for you. If you’d like a beautifully illustrated meditation on the road not taken in a dreamy style that’s largely epic vistas punctuated with violence, then Stellar is a Buy It. For anyone looking for a space opera meets superhero story that’s a bit less experimental and provides a satisfying linear plot from first page to last, it’s a Skip It.